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.