I realise it’s that time of year but I did wonder why a certain organisation has sent me enrollment information for their Creative Writing courses. Are they trying to tell me something?
I’m not sure when Creative Writing became a taught subject. It’s a relatively recent development. For sure Mark Twain never took a class. Can a writer be cured of cloth ears, or chronic adverborrhoea (she pondered tentatively)? I’m not convinced . I don’t know what happens on these courses that could not just as usefully take place in solitude with a chewed pencil, but I concede that many of my writer friends disagree. Some of them teach these courses. Some of them also attend workshops and submit their own efforts for criticism by their peers. Maybe it makes better writers of them. Having eavesdropped on one such session, I doubt it. More likely, I think, they emerge feeling annoyed or battered. Again I say, Mark Twain never did it.
One friend asked me if I have the same opinion of painting classes, and I had to say No, but also Yes. Painting is a manual skill and an exercise in observation, both of which can develop with guidance. If I were to enrol for a class my painting might improve, but never to the point where it brought joy to people’s hearts or made them reach for their cheque book. Nothing wrong with being a weekend painter. You can hang your canvases all over the house and your friends will see them. But writing? What are you going to say?
‘Bill, Linda, come over for drinks and I’ll read you the first 50,000 words of my novel.’
It’s a tricky one. I have some sympathy. Not bucketsful, but some. Writing is a seductive, addictive thing but it’s a funny old business. By the time we’re out of kindergarten we all have the basics. Some people make good money doing it. You may create a masterpiece, you may create dreck. Most of us could stop, right now, without any great loss to the world. We could do something useful. Like the ironing.
That’s my week. Irony, Monday to Friday. Saturday, ironing.