Can Creative Writing be taught?

Posted on January 16, 2013


This semester I am taking a graduate level class called Problems with Literary Criticism. Last semester I had taken Professor Rose Weaver’s course on Literary Criticism and Theory which I had enjoyed so much that I asked to be allowed into the graduate course. I have only met with this class once but I am already enraptured. We discussed T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” after doing a group close reading but before we began that, we read an article by Francine Prose about Close Reading. Prose had been presented with the question of whether creative writing could be taught and the article was her answer. I have listed that article below as reference.

In the article, Prose addresses the quandary faced by being presented with such a question, “being a writer who has taught writing for many years.” She then (like many other writers) decides that workshops can be useful but is not necessarily where creative writing is taught. The workshops are more the setting where writers can hone and edit their craft. This is not the first time I have heard this from professors. Prose then goes on to summarize that writing is not taught in a classroom but stems from the love of reading. “Can the love of language be taught?” When Prose rephrases the question like this, another pause is created, but not as long as the pause of the original question. Prose takes the stand that the love of language first begins with reading and books.

“More often the connection has to do with whatever mysterious promptings make you want to write. It’s like watching someone dance and then secretly in your own room trying out a few steps. I often think of learning to write by reading as something like the first way I began to read.”

I was curious on what other authors thought and their responses when asked this question. I did a little web research and this was some of the other answers I came across.

Both of these articles ask the same questions of authors and teachers of creative writing. Many of their answers are the same, some are not. Below I have another interesting blog post by author Erin Elizabeth Long on the debate of teaching creative writing.

The debate is really interesting so I would recommend watching it if you have the time. This debate flowers even more questions, debating the concepts of inspiration, discipline, workshopping, the opinions of other authors and teachers, and the writers’ own responsibility. They also use twitter as a surveying resource, which shows the value of twitter as a learning/teaching tool.

So what is my point in this? I’m curious what other people think of this. I’m curious if my classmates, my professors, and my other bloggers feel about the teaching of creative writing. I am looking for feedback, to have a conversation about this. So please feel free to leave a comment!

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