Well, I didn't see THIS coming:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/mar/04/creative-writing-courses-waste-of-time-hanif-kureishi?CMP=twt_gu

The article does give both sides -- it starts off with those who agree with Prof. Kureishi and closes with those who think he's nuts.  You can read it and decide which side you agree with for yourself.

For the record, I *do* believe storytelling can be taught. There's a whole toolkit of skills that can be learned and applied.  I'm still learning, and I hope I always will be.


Part of that education did come from an English degree (a minor) with emphasis in creative writing.  The question that must be asked is, do I think it--the college writing program--was worth it?

As in all things opinionated, YMMV. This is only my experience.  And it's my experience from more than a dozen years ago, now. Hopefully things have changed since then.  But for me--

No.  I don't think the creative writing degree was worth the time or the effort or the money I put into it.

I had a couple of profs. who were absolutely amazing. One of them was a fantastic mentor for me at that time in my life.  I was more interested in writing plays than prose back then and this professor actually had several plays produced in New York, off-Broadway.  He had the experience and the credentials to back up what he taught.

Most of my teachers in the creative writing program, though, were grad students.  The English and Lit classes were all professor-taught, but not the writing courses--not until the last one or two, anyway.  And those who were teaching us how to write--whether grad student or professor--had little-to-no publication experience outside of the university press.

The things we were learning, in hindsight, were perfect if the end-goal was to become a professor and publish within the university system.  But my goal, from the very beginning, was to try to (eventually) make a career out of writing genre stories and stage plays.  That's still the goal.

What did I learn from my English/Creative Writing education?

I learned how to deconstruct text.  I learned how to look for hidden meanings.  I learned about interpreting symbolism.  I learned how to rewrite and tweak and rewrite and tweak and rewrite again--all on a single story--until I was so sick of it that I didn't care about the story anymore.

At the risk of inflaming passions on the part of the "Writing is Rewriting" crowd, I have to say that NONE of those skills have been of much use in my attempts to write and become published in genre fiction (I find far more value in throwing a scene or even a whole story away and writing it over again from scratch than I ever did in tweaking words in sentences).  In fact, some of the habits and thought patterns I picked up from my college English classes actually hampered my ability to get to tell the story beneath the words I was putting on the page.

I had one professor who was friendly, personable, intelligent, entertaining--you name it.  He's the one who taught me the most about deconstructing sentences and interpreting symbolism.  I still consider him a friend. And for what he taught, he was one of the better instructors I've ever had.

It took me EIGHT YEARS to get his voice out of my head when I sat down to try to write a story.  For EIGHT YEARS I wrote--or TRIED to write, I should say--with my head all wrapped up in how the words would be deconstructed and how tropes would be analyzed.

It killed my ability to just focus on telling a story.

I'm told things are getting better. That there are now professors at my alma mater who have published outside of the University Press. That there are now professors who understand more about story than interpretation.

For the sake of the students in the creative writing program, I hope so.
 


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