Saturday, June 20, 2009

Creative Writing

I'm thinking about creative writing, or will be, in Norwich next week, for New Writing Worlds at the recently renamed Writers' Centre Norwich . Appropriate, really, as my first visit to Norwich in 1997 was an interview at UEA for their M.A. - I eventually studied at Manchester. I've never had the problem that some people have in whether or not you can "teach" writing. After all, it doesn't seem a problem in the visual arts - are there's a world of difference between the student of a Sunday class in watercolours, and the student on a Fine Art degree - or there can be; just as there's a world of difference between the writer of a "Mills & Boon" and the poet struggling with a first collection.

Unlike, painting, where there is much that can be taught as part of the craft, writing is something that we all can do, isn't it? Yet, there's a large part of the population that are functionally illiterate; many who struggle with dyslexia and other conditions; others who write garbage for a living (reports, assessments etc.) and couldn't write a creative thought for love or money; programmers who are "writers" until they're asked to document their work - etc. etc. There's a lovely little essay from Elizabeth Bishop (I think, my copy seems a little elusive) where she tells of her summer job marking the correspondence course outpourings of farmers from Iowa and secretaries from Syracuse. That's the still the target audience for those adverts you see in the Guardian, "make money from writing or your money back." No-one, of course, ever stays the course.

And staying the course is perhaps what any "creative writer" needs to do; whether its getting to the end of the novel they're writing, or finishing (or at least letting go) the poem they've been working on. I don't know if writers make the best creative writing tutors, after all, being generous about someone else's work is a difficult job when you're doing your best to develop your own; yet I do know that writers have given me the best creative writing advice - whether it's Henry James in the "The Art of Fiction" essay that I used for the title of this blog; the letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald; or any other number of kind words, thrown away, or thought about deeply, from those who think deeply about their own art. The best compliment my own writing ever got was when someone (a poet-friend), who'd seen my poetry over a period of about a year said, "you've got better, and people don't do that." Getting better, I feel, is what it's all about.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a splendid conception...Thanks for letting all of this hang on your blog. It's gonna impel a lot of people to start getting creative about the way they write stuff.