Thursday, March 26, 2015

Can Anyone Learn To Write?

Another taste of spring

Last evening, I was looking through the Wall Street Journal, when I spied an interesting half-page ad. The Great Courses was trolling for people to sign on for a course in writing fiction. Click on the link to get all the details of what they are selling.

What stopped me was what they said in one section. They tell the reader that writing great fiction isn't a gift reserved for the talented few. There is a craft to storytelling that can be learned,... They go on to describe what they term 'a master class in storytelling.' The course is taught via video, audio, DVD method.

I know nothing about this course, nor the professor who is teaching this 24 lecture course so I cannot tell you to run as fast as you can and sign up. Neither can I say run the other way. Looking at the lecture titles gives me reason to think that it is probably a course filled with good information for anyone wanting to learn the art of writing fiction. When you sign up for a course like this, you go on blind faith unless you have the endorsement of someone else who has taken the course already. 

I got my start writing by signing up for a correspondence course that taught people how to write for children. It served as the srpingboard to begin my writing journey. I had known no one who took the course. I went on that 'blind faith' and, for me, it worked out very well. My instructor wrote one final letter to me. In it, she said that she wished she could take credit for the writing ability I had after the 18 month course, but she told me that all she did was help me bring forth what was already there. A nice compliment indeed.

I do believe thst the craft of writing can be learned. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I frequently urge new writers to take classes and read books on writing. I also believe that some people have an inherent gift for storytelling. Put both together and you've got something grand.

I know a writer who writes great stories with wonderful messages and is able to bring out the reader's emotions. She also shuns reading books about writing, taking a class or anything remotely connected. She is the exception to the rule, I think. I sometimes wonder if her writing might be even better if she did some of the learning the craft end but she's happy with the road she's on. Isn't that the important thing? 

A noble experiment would be for 10 people to take the same writing course, then follow their writing progress over a five year period. I am guessing that they will all be at different stages on the writing path. Those who learn the technicalities of the our craft but also have that special gift for storytelling will probably be much farther along. 

Whether we must be born with the gift of being able to write or we can learn it as a craft has been a debatable question for a very long time. I don't think there is a totally clear answer. Anyone care to comment? 


  1. For me, I love learning new techniques, be it writing, painting, cooking, or whatever. It doesn't always mean I will change my way of doing something if it's not right for me. There is always room for improvement in our lives. Besides, it helps to keep those 'senior moments' from taking over.

  2. I loved writing as a child and got the urge to write after a 40 year hiatus. I took an online writing course which gave me the confidence and the motivation to start writing short stories. I created a blog to showcase my work. Without that class I would not have rekindled my writing passion. I am a creative person but needed to perfect my craft. I've taken 4 online classes and am now enrolled in a play writing class which I love. In addition I read as much as I can about writing. So, bottomline, you need to have the creative talent- that can't be taught-but everyone needs classes to help them become better writers.

    1. I'm in full agreement with you, Shelley. So glad you went ahead and pursued your writing again after that long hiatus.