Teaching Creative Writing
Many writers supplement their income by taking short-term jobs ‘teaching’ creative writing. And I’m sure most of them don’t take this gig just for the money—which, frankly, isn’t anything to crow about. It is intrinsically rewarding to encourage and help others in learning the art and craft of stringing words together.
I’ve done it, but when doing it, I’ve always been troubled by doubts that it is really possible to ‘teach’ creative writing. As with all the arts, as with all skills, one can teach someone how to use the tools, but showing someone how to apply watercolours isn’t going to teach them to how to enter into competition with Turner or Blake. So yes, you can teach some of the tricks of the writing trade, and that is important, but I’m not at all sure that is the same thing as teaching creative writing. For one thing, motivation is incredibly important for success at any endeavour, and every teacher of anything knows how hard that is to teach.
Nevertheless, encouraging others to share your enthusiasm is rewarding. Unfortunately, too often it seems the only interest in writing that many students have is in their own writing. How little so many of them have read amazes me. There are so many would-be poets who never read poetry.
I could never do this, but a writer friend of mine told me that when students proudly show him their efforts for evaluation, he always tells them that it is total shit. He claims that the writers with real potential will be motivated to prove him wrong. And it’ll toughen them up for dealing with the rejection slips that litter almost all writers’ paths to eventual publication.
I don’t know. Maybe sometimes, but I think most people who succeed at anything will recall someone special who encouraged them at that critical junction where they have to decide whether or not to persevere, someone who convinced them the effort was worth it all.