Day 99: Can creative writing be taught
Joe, a Facebook member, posted this question today … ‘What do you guys think about an aspiring writer going to college to become a fiction writer? Good or bad idea?’
Rather than giving him a direct answer, his question became the inspiration for today’s blog post.
Many years ago, I had a pen pal called Nadia. This was before the Internet became popular and people exchanged letters instead of emails. Our letters were no ordinary letters, but pages and pages of stories that resembled a small newspaper. We started out writing with pen and paper, later used a typewriter and ultimately switched to a computer.
Nadia’s letters were fluid, interesting and funny. She wrote from the heart and I could tell that rather than writing, she was talking to me.
A few years later, Nadia told me that she planned on writing a short story for a national competition. As it turned out, her submission was not only accepted, but she won 1st prize and gained television, radio and newspaper exposure.
Rather than this victory building up her confidence, it destroyed it. Nadia couldn’t write anything anymore because all her creations fell short compared her winning story.
She decided to enroll in a creative writing class. Three years later she graduated with distinction. During these three years, I had noticed a change in Nadia’s letters. They were no longer fluid but mechanical.
When as tactfully mentioned this to Nadia, she wholeheartedly agreed. She said ever since she took the course, writing was no longer a labor of love but torture. She agonized over word choice and sentence structure, often rewriting the same sentence over and over again until it was as perfect as possible.
When I remarked that this was probably advisable for story writing, she didn’t have to go through such trouble while writing a letter to me. Her response was ‘I can’t help it. I’ve become so aware of being grammar perfect that nothing but the best will do.’
Ultimately, the book that Nadia intended on writing never materialized and she couldn’t even produce another short story. In her quest for perfection, she had lost her creativity.
To answer Joe’s question … Go to college to improve your language skills, but where it comes to your creative spirit … nobody can teach you that.
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Any amount will make a difference.