ShortbreadStories: The Blog

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A Creative Writing Education: Can Creative Writing be Taught?

/Intro by Rachel Marsh/

I started teaching creative writing in 1999, where I instructed at an educational institution called Colorado Free University. For five years, I taught a reoccurring course called ‘Finding Your Voice as a Writer’, which ran for five weeks, took a break for three weeks, then started again.

In those five years, I met such wonderful people. Many of whom I now consider to be my closest friends. But teaching that course did more than just introduce me to new and future authors, it taught me to teach.

Prior to this experience, I had no background in teaching, and this wonderful institution allowed me learn in the classroom. I honed my skills as an instructor, and now I know which writing exercises get the most out of shy new students, what novice writers are looking for, and how to guide the student so they produce their best work. Since leaving Colorado Free University, I’ve taught at a number of institutions, plus I teach privately. I also lead the ShortbreadStories courses.

However, despite thirteen years of experience as an instructor, there is much still to learn about the art of teaching creative writing. Debates on the best pedagogy for teaching creative writing are frequent in teaching circles, such as arguments about using lectures and exercises, or if the students should be allowed to find their own path. Many in the field are asking questions like ‘Is creative writing an academic subject?’, or even ‘Can creative writing be taught?’

Yet, these questions are not hindering the number of writing programmes which are springing-up all over the world. You can take a residential course or a weekend writing workshop; you can sign-up for one-on-one tutorials or become part of a writing group. You can get a degree, a Master’s, or even a PhD in creative writing these days. Yet, despite the multitude of options for learning to write creatively, rarely is there one best practice for learning. That is…if creative writing can even be taught.

With this in mind, ShortbreadStories is introducing a series of articles entitled ‘A Creative Writing Education’. Each week we will post a set of articles about teaching creative writing, each presenting various opposing view points.

This week, we’re kicking off the series with the big question, ‘Can creative writing be taught?

Below you will find links to three different answers to this question. Rosamunde Pilcher says ‘No, creative writing cannot be taught’, while Kirsty Gunn argues that the answer to the question lies in the definition of ‘creative writing’. And our own Shortbreader, Deanna Westwood, emphatically says, ‘Yes, creative writing can be taught.’ In fact, she states that she’s experienced the phenomenon first hand.

Click on the following links to read our expert opinions on, ‘Can creative writing be taught?’ Then, go to our Forum ‘A Creative Writing Education’, to give us your opinion.

Rosamunde Pilcher: Can Creative Writing Be Taught?
Kirsty Gunn: Can One Teach Creative Writing?
Deanna Westwood: Creativity – By the Book

Fancy taking a creative writing course? Check out the ShortbreadStories courses.


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