July 25


Thank You For Talking About Jane Austen With Me

Writing advice

Thanks to everyone who read my Jane Austen and writing lessons post. Thank you, too, to WordPress for selecting it for Freshly Pressed.

I’m grateful to everyone who interacted, commented, shared, responded — being Freshly Pressed is a lovely experience for a blogger.

That piece described some of the difficulties involved in teaching writing: if students can’t see the quality of good writing, how can they learn to write better? And I noticed that as people discussed the post — here, on other blogs, and on Facebook —  a particular question kept coming up: can writing be taught at all? For many readers, questions about technique and perception might only be brushing the edge of the real issue: perhaps skill at novel-writing is something that education cannot improve.

“Can writing be taught?” is a very old question in the writing world. Some people argue that writing must be teachable, because in classrooms all over America, it is being taught. Almost all the well-known authors working today have gone through some form of writing instruction.

On the other hand, however, there remains the seemingly irreducible strangeness of fiction. How can a syllabus of lessons ever hope to encompass the actual novels written by Stephen King, James Joyce, or Toni Morrison? Even an apparently “standard” author like Jane Austen, may, on closer examination, seem so unique that it is difficult to believe her genius could ever be distilled into seven or eight key steps, reproducible by anyone.

I’m going to offer what I hope is a useful (or at least interesting) way of looking at the problem. That post should be ready by Monday or Tuesday.

Best wishes until then.



You may also like

  • As a writer aspiring to be published more often and as a former visual arts teacher, I am very much looking forward to this post. I always told my students that, “anyone can learn to draw,” and firmly believed that. I believe that yes, writing can be taught, but you can’t teach someone to become a famous author. To me it’s like any subject. You can learn business in school, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will become a millionaire. It really depends mostly upon your life experience, your predilection towards creative thought, and your work ethic relating to that particular skill after you’ve learned the form and function of it. I can’t wait to read more of your blog and hear your thoughts on this subject. Thanks for sharing .

  • I enjoyed your post the other day and there’s plenty to discuss. But really, I just wanna give a shout out to your cat!

  • Yes. Awesome cat. And congrats on being Freshly Pressed once again! Looking forward to your future post.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
    Join my free course, The Character-First Story. 12 lessons sent straight to your inbox.