Are Creative Writing Courses Ineffectual?

Last March, Hanif Kureishi, teacher of creative writing at Kingston University, dismissed creative writing classes as "a waste of time," calling "99.9%" of his students "untalented." Some, like Kureishi, would argue that creative writing is a skill that cannot be taught; however, these courses are more popular now than ever. Does this argument hold up? Or can creative writing indeed be taught to some degree? If it can’t, is there another way in which these courses can be beneficial to those who enroll?

  • I would like to fight Mr. Kureishi. Genuinely, I would like to fight him. I just claimed a topic and I'm working on an article for that one, but I'm very tempted to grab this one, too- I have strong feelings about this. Because, seriously, he's wrong as hell, and people like him are why some parts of the writing and publishing industry are terrible places to hang out. There are plenty of things a person can (and, arguably, MUST) be taught in order to be a good writer. Talent is great- I am lucky enough to have been blessed with it. But I've also attended tens, maybe hundreds of various writing workshops in my 18 short years, and I've gotten something out of every single one of them. I'd not be anything like the writer I am today without taking those courses, and I think it's probably the same for any successful author. Sure, some people wake up one day and sit down and write masterpieces, but that's rare. More often, good writers spend years BECOMING good, and sometimes even then they can't be successful, because it's hard as hell to be a writer. You have to learn somewhere, whether it's from book, from courses, or just from talking to other writers or editors or whoever. There's huge benefit in creative writing courses, and good writing (at least on some level) can absolutely be taught. tl;dr Hanif Kureisi is clearly bitter and full of it, and I will personally fight him and every other person who has ever made comments similar to his. There's LOTS to be gained from creative writing courses, they're REALLY important, and they're VERY useful. – Julia 9 years ago
  • I also agree that creative writing classes can be beneficial. I've taken a few in college and I feel like I learned a lot. It helped me prioritize what things I should focus on while I write (POV, plot, dialogue, etc.). I also found it beneficial to learn from professors who had been published and from classmates who enjoyed writing as much as I did. The deadlines and discipline associated with taking a course more generally helped me set a writing schedule (as soon as I graduated, I had to reset my schedule and have been struggling with that since). Although, grading creative writing material is subjective and would be difficult to do. – S.A. Takacs 9 years ago
  • I agree creative writing classes are beneficial. Skills and passions lie dormant if they are not first discovered, and then fostered. What better way than through teaching. Everyone has capacity for creativity, which is a skill that can be brought into any field or job and be an asset. – Steffanie 9 years ago
  • I think Hanif is correct in his reasoning in why he is there. As a production and fine arts professor, I know that a majority of my intro students don't have what it takes to make it. Some may have their lives enriched but as someone who dedicated themselves to the craft, they are really eating the tone of people who well also dedicate themselves to the same feels of study. With that said the creativity can and should be nurtured. I tend not to fall students trying on new things. I encourage them and their growth. Sometimes trying to find out what is stopping them from being good artists helps me learn how to teach. better. The are many systems that help organize thoughts into manipulatable data points. Teachers like hanif should take a stand everynow and then. What trapped in his class no one knows. But I did have a student who cited himself in his own paper and he was never published before. There is lack pod talent and then their is lack of talent and laziness, that is a horrible combination in the creative industries. – fchery 9 years ago
  • Clearly he doesn't know what he's talking about. The problem is not that creative writing can't be taught. This teacher is probably under the assumption that he was not taught, therefore 'it' is not taught. This is a wrong way of looking at it. Creative writing can be taught but it needs to be taught differently. The probem with these courses (I took one in University) is that they focus too much on the different kinds of Literature and post required readings. It would be best to explore the students' interests and come up with ideas, less reading more writing. Some argue that reading is essential to be a good writer but students read enough in general English classes. Creative writing can be taught, but the teaching style should be remodeled. It's not a subject we're teaching now but an actual action of writing. This means they learn by doing. – SpectreWriter 9 years ago
  • I took two creative writing class in my third year of university. One for prose and poetry, and the other for playwriting. Both teacher's had their unique way of teaching and approaching the assignments, as well as grading their students. I found my creative writing class to be mechanical, boring, and strict. My playwriting class the opposite. My professor spends her attention on each of her students, working with them to accomplish what they want and need. There were fewer students in this class than to the creative writing class, which was open admission. To participate in playwriting, students has to apply. I believe it depends on both the teacher and the student. People are capable of learning. And when they study something they feel passionate about, a class can work wonders. Training is essential. I don't think anyone should discourage a human being from practice/training. – yase 9 years ago
  • So far I have not learned didly squat in the two creative writing classes at what I was told was a good creative writing progam. This is how it works. You basically write one short story, maybe revise it, and that's it, while reading everyone else's story, most of whom have no skill in the art of language and prose and are probably just there for the credits. That sounds very cruel but it's the truth. Then we read realist fiction and I got nothing out of it. We discussed it yes, but none of these stories stimulated my mind except for a few. Their prose was too basic and ordinary. And we almost never talked about plot structure, characters, sentence structure, linguistics, metaphors, story genres, description, editing, etc. We talked not about any of these very important features. I have learned so much more in my literature classes and history classes. It is these classes that have influenced my writing. It is the ideas and the texts I learn in Medieval literature and Ancient Greece for example, or the literature of the ancients and how academics interpret them that inspire me. What a writer needs to learn is how to basically write a sentence. That's taught in grade school. After that it's really artistic choices. Talent and work. If a creative writing class can expose students to a variety of genres and as practice write a story micking that genre, then I will believe a creative writing class works. Until then I am convinced that writing is a self taught thing where it's talent and work that counts. I hope you find this viewpoint useful. – Starvix Draxon 9 years ago

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