Contra Creative Writing

Prof. Myers speaks out against the established CW curricula. 

Working in an industry that requires people who can write on a more or less continual basis, I have rapidly learned my lesson about hiring graduates of CW programs.  To a person they did not have the skills necessary to write in any professional, on-going capacity.  Which is not to say that they couldn't write, but they couldn't write to order.  And perhaps, one would argue, that isn't what CW is about.  I could grant that.  But add to that that in every case, the copyedit returns on the CW writer were always (and this is without remit) 50-75% heavier than on any one else.  The rudiments of grammar and composition are tossed to the side as writers are taught to "be themselves" and "do their own thing."

I'm afraid that I am of the Japanese school.  In the old days the master calligrapher would put his hand over the student's hand and guide the formation of the words.  The basics of grammar, composition, the elegant sentence, should be fundamentals of a creative writing curriculum--not something dismissed as arbitrary and binding.  Until you can compose one error-free gramatically correct (even if dull) sentence, you should not move on to trying to put together a paragraph, much less a story. 

CW should give you the skills to take on any writing task you choose and accomplish it with grace, style, aplomb, and a minimum of work for the editor/copyeditor.  The changes made should amount to those needed to conform to house style.

Comments

  1. The basics of grammar, composition, the elegant sentence, should be fundamentals of a creative writing curriculum--not something dismissed as arbitrary and binding.

    Quite. How many students in "creative writing" classes are capable of producing a sentence remotely akin to that which begins Whitman's "Out of the Cradle" -- for complexity, for elegance, and yes, for good grammar? (Nowadays, college students are told that Whitman gave us "common speech" in his poetry. Oy.)

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