A Life Of Fiction XXXIII

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work before purchasing it on the Kindle store; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Creative writing: I have never been on a Creative Writing course, although I have considered it, in the past, so I freely admit that, in the views expressed in this post, I do not speak from experience, and anybody who has found such courses useful are free to disagree with my views. From that sentence above you may conclude that I am not necessarily in favour of such courses.

There is no doubt that some of the people teaching Creative Writing are great writers, as some of Britain’s best writers have taken on teaching Creative Writing courses at university. I don’t know the situation in America, but I would be surprised if that was not the case there, as well.

But does being a great writer make you a great teacher? You will certainly know about your craft. But teaching is a skill in and of itself, and one which I think is sometimes belittled in today’s world. Some authors – such as William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies – started out as teachers, of course, before becoming novelists. What I have heard about Golding’s lessons, though, suggests that he was a far better novelist than he was an instructor.

Other authors who have been teachers include Luigi Pirandello, R K Narayan, James A Michener and Emily Bronte.

My fear with Creative Writing is that it may produce a number of novels which are similar in feel or structure. None of the great authors of the past ever went on a Creative Writing course. They wrote, and they created, and that was it. William Shakespeare did not sit in some class alongside Christopher Marlowe, learning how to write plays. Henry James Pye and William Blake did not attend some class where they were instructed in the secrets of the poetic form.

My fear is that novels written by those who have done Creative Writing may end up feeling a bit samey, due to the influence of the teacher and his personal views on writing as an artistic form. I don’t want to see novels become dated, and somebody say oh, that is so 2014 or whatever. Yet that has to be balanced against the fact that any such courses will certainly produce a more polished product.

While I think that, in certain cases, Creative Writing courses may be of benefit, there is just so much that you can learn from them. If you want to write, and you have an idea of what you want to say, then just get on with it. If you are good enough you don’t need some course instructor to tell you that.

Perhaps you will not achieve a polished first or second draft, and you will have to rework your magnum opus. But at least it will be your work, uninfluenced by somebody telling you what your book should be like. I don’t mind novels which aren’t too polished, having grown up reading a lot of the pulp books from the 1930s. The important thing is to have some spirit in there; for you to imbue the work with a little soul. That can’t really be taught. It can’t really be learned. There is a limit to what can and cannot be taught.

Well, that is enough of me whinging on about Creative Writing courses. I will end by saying that you should keep writing, whether it is creative or not – and, even more importantly, keep reading. All those books don’t read themselves.

Until the next time…

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