Can You Teach Someone To Write?

You know, write. Not as in ‘form letters’ – you can definitely teach that!

Amongst writers, it’s always a bit of a debate – and there are lots of quotes from writing tutors claiming, somewhat paradoxically, that you can’t teach someone to write. It’s the old ‘is it a gift or a skill’? controversy. This article is a discussion with three authors on learning to write and teaching writing, whilst this list of tips from the Scottish Booktrust on getting ideas flowing is useful if you teach writing. They’re designed with a school class in mind but they’d work equally well in any creative writing class.

So what do I think?  Well I think it’s like carpentry.

Carpenters working on wooden drawers


No, bear with me. My point is that you can teach carpentry to a group of people and they may all become reasonably competent at joinery and construct perfectly serviceable, well-made cabinets. But will all of them want – or be able – to craft something beautiful? Something that requires inspiration and imagination; that’s off pattern? Or work that has a quality that in some way raises it above the rest?

The answer is – think – no. And I believe writing is much the same. You can teach most people to string together a grammatically correct, understandable sentence. You can teach them the theory of fluency and flow; about metaphor and simile. But will those ideas come into their head when it comes to imagining a story, and will they be able to translate their ideas into the written word in a way that does them justice? And will they have the staying power to persist until every sentence is polished, or will their work always remain a rough diamond? I’m not convinced they all will.

So what do you think? Can good writing be caught or are some people just gifted?



How Advanced Am I, Really? ;-)

It seems I’m about to find out because today a somewhat wet and bedraggled DHL driver delivered a bundle of joy to my door (lucky that I wasn’t Proper Jobbing today). Yay! It was my OU course materials for A363 Advanced Creative Writing.

It turned up at the ideal time, as I needed a break from the computer and wanted something to read with a cuppa before picking up Constructo Boy from school. So I settled down for a read on a sunlounger (upright). Don’t get excited, it wasn’t outdoors. It’s lurking near the patio doors in the vain hope of being allowed out of them again, looking uncannily like a dog desperate for walkies!

This was only after I’d reassured the DHL driver that no, I didn’t want him to hand me the sodden mass that was Arty Daughter’s newspapers (bundled in plastic, thank goodness). I tried to explain that she could shake them off later when she got back, but bless him, I don’t think his English was up to it so he just looked at them, rather bewildered, and walked away. 

So I’ve had a little browse at the intros in the course handbook and study guide, and can’t wait to start. I’m sure come assignment time, though, some of my enthusiasm might have worn off… 🙂

I have to write screen adaptions and plays. I have never done this before.

I’m sure it will be fine.