Can Writing Really Be Taught?

Some novelists enjoy debating whether the art of writing can really be taught. Teachers on the other hand look at it from a more practical point of view. They have seen evidence that suggests people can learn to be better writers.

To teach writing isn’t always an easy task; however, what teachers do can make a major difference in what students are able to achieve as writers. Theory and lectures are fine, but students need to write a lot – they need to be given time to write and revise. As someone is rethinking and revising they are able to slowly bring about improvements. Writing and revising is not enough though; they need to read. Reading anything and everything makes a person a better writer. When I was teaching post-graduate journalism students I would often have them take a break from a writing exercise so they could read or so I could read to the class. It doesn’t matter what you are reading if you are interested in being a writer; just read, read, read.

While as a budding writer you have to work hard at the craft, your teacher needs to do his/her part. The teacher needs to be well versed in theory and be able to turn that theory into practice. He/she must also be able to adjust to the individual styles of each student. I am a firm believer that when it comes to writing, one-on-one instruction is vital. I also believe that general comments on a paper don’t help a student; line-by-line dissection does.

New writers must be encouraged to develop their skills outside the classroom. It is not enough to simply use good habits once-in-a-while. When you think about it, we all do an excessive amount of writing in our daily lives: emailing, texting, blogging, making web-sites, keeping diaries or journals, working on projects or sending someone a birthday card. It is helpful when teachers emphasize good writing outside the classroom and when they can extend projects outside class, making writing more relevant for students.

It can be flattering to feel that someone’s work is a gift as opposed to labour so it is understandable why some argue that writing can’t be taught. Consider this though – if people can really argue that writing can’t be taught then the same would be true for many other creative endeavours such as painting, singing and dancing. We don’t hear many people debating whether or not these forms of artistic expression can be taught.

















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