Can you actually teach someone to write or is it a question of talent?

Image 1Is creative writing a natural talent or can it be taught? Other artistic endeavours, such as painting, dance and film-making are all available at universities or colleges of further education resulting in qualifications like bachelor of fine arts or bachelor of visual arts. Aushor and teacher Tegan Bennett Daylight considers the rise of the creative writing class in an article in the books section of the current The Weekend Australian.

She says that one of the most common problems emerging from the creative writing program is a “kind of flatness; a sameness that results in what American poet Donald Hall called McPoems and McStories.” With a good teacher, she says, that’s easily tackled. “A good teacher of writing won’t congratulate (the) student on his fluency, although she rewards him with decent marks for competency with the language. A good teacher should be able to identify dishonesty and will stir (the) student up, alert him to the fact he may be dodging a private truth to the detriment of his writing.”

However, one of the strongest attributes that comes out of people who do join a writing class, she says, is their decision to just turn up and give it a go. She quotes comments by Australian author Tim Winton (whose book Eyrie has just been released to critical acclaim) about his experience of writing classes: “The student of writing often learns despite what is being taught, either by defiance or by watching the teacher rather than engaging with the lesson.” Just being there was enough for him to learn and to improve.

Bennett Daylight recommends three books: The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, How Fiction Works by British Critic James Wood; and Making Stories by Kate Grenville and Sue Woolfe which consists of a collection of “manuscript fragments” and interviews with established Australian writers like Peter Carey, Helen Garner and David Ireland

Read the full article,  Fighting Words by Tegan Bennett Daylight. Artwork by Sturt Krygsman.

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