Can creative writing be taught? There are many that would debate this point, but I personally believe that yes, creative writing is a skill that can be enhanced by being in a learning environment, whether it is formal or informal.
Creativity and the Brain
From studies of neuroplasticity, we know that habits create stronger neural structures in the brain – essentially, when you perform an action repeatedly, that action gets easier to do because your brain recognizes the habit and reinforces it. Creativity is no different. Those who practice thinking of creative solutions get better at thinking of creative solutions, and that’s one of the reasons why studying creative writing can benefit a career outside of being a published author. Writing skills are incredibly transferable; from project management to marketing and advertising, a background in creative writing will benefit you. Selling yourself in a cover letter, selling your ideas, and managing complex projects are all processes you will be well-equipped to handle after studying creative writing. After all, what’s more complex than managing a novel’s cast of characters?
The Process of Growth
It is essential to learn the nuts and bolts of sentence and story construction – then, when you want to break traditional rules, you can do so intentionally while keeping your story intact.
In a formal course, you will also learn to be critical of your own writing and you will understand the process of editing and re-writing as you get and integrate feedback on your work.
A writing program can push you to try new genres and structures – scripts, poems, novels, short stories – as well as get you to write in new, unexpected ways. If you’ve ever read literature like the brilliance of Salman Rushdie or Tom Robbins, you know how tone and voice can be patterned to create a specific effect, and a great teacher pushing you to try new styles can help you unlock the creative genius within yourself.
The problem with artistic endeavours like writing is that often, we get stuck waiting for “inspiration” to come. A structured writing program can help by forcing you to write even when you don’t feel inspired, showing you that the writing habit is more important than a brief flash of brilliance.
After a writing course is over, it’s easy to lose momentum and find yourself in long stretches without getting any writing done. The peers and friends that you made through your course can be invaluable for keeping you accountable. Plus, being a writer is a lonely path, and finding a group of people who are passionate about the same thing you are will help keep you sane in the midst of both creative spells and dry stretches!
No matter whether you choose to enroll in a formal, academic setting or take a free, online course, your writing skills can improve immeasurably from a creative writing class.