Kindle Forum banner

How much writing-specific education did you have?

1 - 20 of 32 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
876 Posts
I'm going to say 50-50. All of my music & voice students start off without the skill. All of them develop the skills from my teaching. But not all of them 'have it'. Natural talent is unteachable, but the mechanics can be taught.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,388 Posts
I thought Anne Rice put it very well. There are some things that are innate - or not. You can provide a checklist of things to do or avoid doing, but you can't get into a person's head and make them understand the entire process, and how to articulate the Human Condition effectively. They might figure it out themselves, eventually, if they don't know how naturally - people begin writing at all different ages, as Anne pointed out - but I don't think any writing teacher can take credit for any student's talent. Just my opinion.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
438 Posts
Story telling cannot be taught.  But writing that story can.  

A teacher can't give you a plot.  But a teacher can give you the necessary story structure skills to make it into a narrative with symbol theme, dramatic action, etc.  And of course, spelling, punctuation and grammar are all skills you can learn at the beginning of the process.  

Where do I put myself if my education was informal?  I only had one college creative writing class.  But I picked the brains of all the writers I could find, and got everything I could for cheap or free.  
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
424 Posts
I think it depends a lot on what we mean by taught.  I know for a fact that I'm not the only writer out there who has gotten considerably better over the years since story one was written.

Now, I don't think I got all that much out of the formal writing classes I took.  Not the least of which is because I was hostile to the professor's loathing of all things genre.  But I read a lot, and I read critically: what worked, how, why, etc?  I know in that way I've been learning a lot about how good writing works.  Likewise, the five years I spent working with a writing group was also useful for learning about how to make fiction better. 

And while the above paragraph talks mostly about technical aspects of writing, I think I've learned quite a bit about how people work, how the world works, and how people understand the world over the intervening years as well.  That sort of understanding is, to my way of thinking the core of good storytelling.  And that was certainly involved in making me a much better writer. 

So, was I taught to be a better writer?  I certainly learned to be one. 
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
40 Posts
I don't believe it can be taught in a classroom, but it can be learned. How? By writing lots and reading lots. Yes, some people can just pick up a pen and write prose that makes others weep. It happens. Is it talent? Good of a name as any, but to me talent is just the ability to pick up something quickly. Your mind is wired for numbers, for words, or for anything. Talent is easy to come by, perseverance is quite hard to find.

Not everyone will write like Chaucer, or Mark Twain, but you can learn to tell a good story by reading other stories; by not giving up and continuing to work toward writing better.

I'm self-taught in the sense that I didn't learn much in the one creative writing course I took. I learned more from books on writing, books in general, experiencing life and just writing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,329 Posts
What Anne Rice said. I think most people can get better through classes and lessons, I think to be great there has to be something more, and I think some people have the writing equivalent of tone deafness. You can improve the last group, but it's never going to be good, because they're unable to ascertain important differences.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
209 Posts
I think the drive to write is innate, even if it doesn't kick in at full power until 21 or 40; that writing is self-taught; and that someone who is driven to write will find the right books, teachers, classes, professions, experiences, lovers, religions, etc.  to teach them what they need to know.

But if the drive isn't there, forget it.
 
G

·
I have always said that you can teach a person how to write properly. You CANNOT teach someone how to write well. Writing is a talent, and like all talents there must be some inborn ability for it to develop. And even within writing, those talents are not blanket across all forms. One can be a great fiction writer and never grasp the nuance of poetry. One can be an exceptional novelist but never master the short story format. Someone that writes amazing romance novels cannot automatically write amazing ad copy to promote the novel.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
489 Posts
Bards and Sages (Julie) said:
I have always said that you can teach a person how to write properly. You CANNOT teach someone how to write well.
This. x500.
:]
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,185 Posts
Bards and Sages (Julie) said:
I have always said that you can teach a person how to write properly. You CANNOT teach someone how to write well. Writing is a talent, and like all talents there must be some inborn ability for it to develop. And even within writing, those talents are not blanket across all forms. One can be a great fiction writer and never grasp the nuance of poetry. One can be an exceptional novelist but never master the short story format. Someone that writes amazing romance novels cannot automatically write amazing ad copy to promote the novel.
This is very true. I've written fiction for years and am poetry illiterate. But the most difficult thing I ever tried to write was knitting instructions. It is astonishing what you cannot take for granted.

I think writing can be taught but I think being a natural-born story-teller is a gift.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,262 Posts
We all know the things that CAN be taught, but several things can't.

I don't think there's any way anyone can teach an author to write their words with rhythm. MAYBE if the writer studied poetry and the iambic pentameter and followed that, but that's INCREDIBLY tedius to do for a 100,000 word novel in which the words will change a thousand times, and therefore the writer would have to go check which syllables should be accened and which ones shouldn't with each change. It would take fifty years to write a book that way. So, if you have a natural flow to your words in your head, the words can come out right. If you don't have it, the words will feel stilted. Sentences won't flow. The mind's tongue will fall into tongue twisters, and you'll frustrate the reader. In that sense, either you can dance or you can't.

The other thing that can't be taught is imagination. Anyone can write the description of a man pulling into a parking lot, getting out of his car, walking from the car to the building, opening the door, crossing the lobby, hitting the button for the elevator, waiting, getting in, hitting the button to go up, watching the numbers light up. But who the hell wants to read about that? People want to read about intersting things, not the mundane. Thinking up interesting things to tell a reader comes from the imagination, and that can't be learned from a book or website.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
438 Posts
ilyria_moon said:
I'm going to say 50-50. All of my music & voice students start off without the skill. All of them develop the skills from my teaching. But not all of them 'have it'. Natural talent is unteachable, but the mechanics can be taught.
I was going to say something very similar to this. Any skill (music, writing, techinal, artistic) can be taught. For example in college I took drawing courses. At my best I can create a passable drawing of something. However, I'm by no means a talented artist. Same goes with singing, I can carry a tune but I'm no superstar.

On a scale of 1-10 most people can probably start producing at about a "7" with a little guidance. Those who can produce at '10' are little more rare. It's a combination of natural talent, desire, and practice that really matter. Sure someone may be naturally gifted as a writer. But if they don't sit down at the keyboard and start working nothing will happen.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that Talent alone isn't enough.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,781 Posts
It really depends upon the individual I think and the type of writing.  If we are talking about fiction I think some people can be taught various aspects and various methods and disciples and techniques and they will be able to write, but will they be able to conjure up a story that is a good read.  Technically it may be "correct" but it could also be a boring story, even though all the formulaic elements were utilized.  Some people have an innate ability to write and tell an interesting story.  To tell a great story you just have to have something special within you.

One 40 year old guy sat down one day and just started writing a story in longhand.  He had never written a story in his life, except for school.  Why write?  He had just lost his job and thought he could write a good interesting story and that he could sell it and make some money.  He had taken no formal classes and read nothing about "how to write" and didn't belong to any writers groups or forums or anything.  But he was a reader and he thought he could tell a good story as good as the other writers who sold alotta books.  Short story was, he could and now has tons of fans worldwide.  He had to have talent.  That guy is Lee Child.

I think writing can be taught but what kind of writing?

I could be wrong but I don't think storytelling can be taught. Some may just innately have that power.  By the age of 12 Picasso had gone through many teachers and quickly he surpassed them all.  Did these teachers teach Picasso?  I think only until he was 12.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,300 Posts
I can imagine an apprentice situation working. I imagine Carl Sagan learned something from Ann Druyan before he wrote Contact (they wrote a novel in collaboration if I remember rightly). I can't imagine anyone learning much from a class, though doubtless there are exceptions. Depends the teacher, depends the student.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,688 Posts
Flip the question. Can it be learned? If it can be learned, then it can be taught. However, that doean't mean it's a Pygmalion or Trading Places situation. Not everyone can learn it, nor can everyone be taught.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,230 Posts
I think that creativity itself can't be taught. But the skills to translate the movie/story that's in your head, so that it can be seen by other people in the same way you see it, that's what can be taught.

A writer is both born and made. If you're born with the heart of a storyteller, you can be taught the skill set to put those stories down on paper.
 
1 - 20 of 32 Posts
Top