Can You Be Taught Creative Writing?

media_298873_enCurrently, I am at university studying English Literature… and Creative Writing. It’s not my first time ever taking a creative writing workshop/class, but for the first time I’m being taught by authors, researchers and all sorts about the craft of writing.

And yet, I’m posing this question – can you actually be taught how to do creative writing? There are, of course, two camps.

Yes

Well, obviously, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think you could be. Creative writing may be an art style, but you get art colleges, so you can be taught to paint and draw. Why should writing be any different?

I feel like since being at uni, I’ve already learnt a lot. I’ve improved in my writing style, tried out some more ways to progress (eg with automatic writing, with internal monologues and streams of consciousness) and I’ve enjoyed being surrounded by other writers. I can also get valuable feedback on my work by trained eyes, something that I just wouldn’t get with readers. I should be able to really hone my craft whilst I’m here.

No

Well, it comes into the last sentence I just wrote: hone my craft. Writing is such a personal endeavour, can you really be taught to do it if you’re not teaching yourself? No one writes exactly like somebody else. I know that during schooling, I had teachers saying, “It’s good, but I don’t like your style…” So, if I’m being taught, am I expected to change my writing style to suit what my teacher likes to read?

Secondly, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t already like to write in the first place. The question I asked was, “Can you be taught creative writing?” Well, if I’m already writing, can I be taught once more? Surely the logic in that would be that I have to erase everything in my mind (and put on this blog too!) that I know about creative writing and be taught from scratch. But having been to a class, I know that this isn’t what happens. I guess you could ask, “Is there any point in creative writing classes?” but then we might get existential and deviate from the point in hand which, of course, is something I never do.

My Verdict

Overall, I think no, you can’t be taught creative writing. There must be something inherent in you which compels you to write. I wouldn’t be learning creative writing if I didn’t already like to write myself!

However, I think you can be taught how to hone in on your strengths and improve your weaknesses. For example, if you are really bad at writing dialogue, you could take a creative writing course and you might improve a great deal. You’re not being taught to write necessarily, but you are being taught how to gain better skills in the craft you wish to pursue.

So I’m going to turn this over to you guys. Do you think you can be taught creative writing? Or do you think that creative writing classes should be abolished and beta reading speed dating should be a thing? (Actually, why isn’t that a thing? Is that a thing?) Let me know in the comments below, and tell me if you take/have ever taken/want to take a creative writing class yourself! 

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5 thoughts on “Can You Be Taught Creative Writing?

  1. I would say it’s for the most part inherent. Then again, I’ve been writing stories since I was three years old. And it’s kind of something that was born inside me. However, practice and refinement are where the learning process comes in. And for me that means reading A LOT. Or planning to. Crowding your library with books (hard ones) is the best way to temper your craft to near perfection. And, of course, the feedback you get from other people. I still have to work on the feedback one.

    • I definitely agree with you! I started writing when I was 5, very young as well! The refinement is the bit that I think grows with you, but being in a creative writing class is definitely a good way to help it. Thanks very much for commenting. 🙂

  2. I think you can learn some valuable lessons, but from my experience creative writing courses are subjective. If the professor doesn’t like your style, you will get a lower grade if you don’t conform. I don’t think that’s right.

    • Yes, I agree so much! I think my creative writing teacher here seems to look at the way we craft though, so I’m hoping that even if our styles clash I won’t get a lower grade. The feedback she gave me was really positive, and focused on style but she didn’t say anything about her own or her own preferences. I know it’s really hard to be subjective when reading someone else’s work, but especially for a creative writing teacher I feel it’s important.
      thanks for commenting! 🙂

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