Prufrock's Page

Thursday, June 23, 2005

On Creative Writing Programs

Having been part of a creative writing program some years ago, one is undecided about its merits. On one hand, what's invaluable is the feeling of community, of being given time and space to write, and the gratifying sense of one's work being taken seriously by fellow-writers.

On the other hand, one does find that the writing produced by such programs -- especially those that extend for long periods -- tends to be tailored to suit the consensus of the group, conforming to received notions of "good writing".

On balance, though, it's an experience -- and an environment -- that's elevating for would-be writers. (Even those as congenitally slothful and indisciplined as this one.)

Journalist Kate Rew comes to much the same conclusions in this winsome report on her stint at a creative writing course on the enchanted isle of Skyros:

"Can I write better? I don't know. But we've learnt that the cut of truth elevates any story, and the supportive environment has allowed us to take chances. I've seen people very unlike me laughing at things I've written, and been touched by things written by others. Trainee clerics have heard about Ian's testes, and I've seen a blue-stocking OU retiree discuss in all earnestness which is the best word in a bonk-busting sentence - screw, shag or mount."

To which Mark Baechtel, fresh from another such program in picturesque Kachemak Bay, Alaska, adds:

"Can writing be taught? Not really. Every writer must mostly teach him or herself the things that make up the very essence of the craft: framing what Raymond Carver once called 'the news everyone knows but nobody's talking about.' But what writers can do when they gather periodically is to warm their collective hands at the fire of each other's enthusiasm....we find that we're perhaps not as alone as we think we are in our strange and deeply specialized passions, that others think they are as important as we think they are and that others believe, as we do, that working to batter away at the long odds against publication is an important, even a vital thing we can do for our communities, however we define them."

This just in: Elizabeth Clementson at Moby Lives damns MFA writing programs: " ...literature created by committee usually does not find the audience that it is calculated to find, and is quickly forgotten." (Link via Kitabkhana.)

3 Comments:

  • You're not the JAP I'm looking for, but what the heck, you're better!!!! Am adding you!!

    By Blogger Parii, at 3:46 PM  

  • Flattered. But one must protest: JAP's posts are truly original, whereas mine are merely "allusion and mention".

    By Blogger PrufrockTwo, at 3:55 PM  

  • Oh and thanks for the link, it is indeed the person I was seeking :) Do you know each other, besides sharing a virtual ID?

    Even 'allusion and mention' can add value to knowledge.

    By Blogger Parii, at 4:48 PM  

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