Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel January 25, 2017 - 8:51pm

Yes.

You know how I know it can be taught?

Because people taught me how. 

You know who doesn't think it can be taught?

Those who don't want to put in the work and listen to others and learn.

 

I'm like to hear your thoughts on the matter.

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. January 26, 2017 - 1:35am

Of course it can be taught. Just as learning to play the piano, or dance or draw. It is an art supported by its discipline. It you choose to embark on the discipline and you love the art then your can learn to write. If you are willing to put in the time you will master what it is you love. Malcolm Gladwell, is the name that pops into my head. Something like, if you give a thing 10,000 hours you've got a good start. Anything you would give that kind of time is something that you care deeply about. To care deeply and work hard creates mastery and mastery produces art......that's my 2 cents for the night!  And, susbsequently. To teach what you love to others enriches the artistic community and the artistic self.

That's my longwinded way of saying  "Fuckin' A"  you can teach a person to write, but only if they want to do it.

 

 

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal January 26, 2017 - 10:00am

Anything can be taught. But individuals will all learn to varying degrees.

 

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman January 26, 2017 - 3:56pm

I used to coach distance runners, and you saw a lot who were naturally talented, a lot who were untalented but very hardworking, and a lot of both. Most that I saw were different mixtures of those things.

The nice thing about coaching runners is that it's very objective. Did you cover the same distance faster this week than you did last week? If so, then we have a success.

However, there were a lot of intangible, subjective things in there. Did the runner go 10% faster but feel 25% shittier by the end? Did the runner's form completely fall apart? Did the runner sustain an injury in the course of running faster?

Two very similar physical characters (twins, honestly) who did the same training, had the same home life, mostly ate the same things, would still perform differently in races. I think it came down to those intangibles. Perhaps one was better disposed, in some way, to be a distance runner. Brain chemistry, experience of pain, something was different.

There's a ton of research about athletics, and we still haven't cracked that even though the outcome is easily measured. This is where we come back to writing.

Creative writing, the end product of it, is hard as hell to measure in any objective way beyond, "Are there words on a page and are they arranged with some kind of logic?" It's hard to look at two samples of writing and say, objectively, that one is better than the other, assuming that both have a good grasp of the objective rules that are easy to evaluate (grammar, punctuation, so on). You or I can look at two pieces and say which one we think is better, but it's difficult to know, without a doubt, which is the better piece.

The only way to answer, for me, is with my gut.

And my gut says totally. If you can learn an entirely new language, you can learn to use one differently. 

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal January 26, 2017 - 4:39pm

Don't forget that intangible thing called "desire."

Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading Adjustment Day January 28, 2017 - 12:36pm

My gut feeling is that writing can be taught but creativity cannot. Same goes for music, painting, etc. These artistic skills can be taught/learned/honed from a craft perspective, but the part of the individual psyche that produces original ideas cannot be acquired simply through commitment and dedication. If you look at any bonafide creative genius, they clearly have something they didn't work for. Yes, they had to work hard to hone their talent. But there's always something else, and I believe you either have it or you don't.

As Kenny Powers put it: "You can train all you want. You can work on your catching, on your throwing, on your running. Hell, it might even be enough to get you into the Majors. But if you want to be a standout, an allstar, a champion, then you need more than hard work and dedication. You need something that you can't work for. You need a blessing from God Almighty."

Mark Mason's picture
Mark Mason from Sydney, Australia is reading Best Australian Poems 2016 January 29, 2017 - 11:17pm

Hi all, new to LitReactor but enjoying the experience so far.

I saw this and thought I'd weigh in. As others have said, writing can be learned but creativity can't. I'm a musician - I play guitar, bass and piano. I learnt classical guitar so can read and write music as well. But I'm also a composer - a music creative, if you will. While I'm no slouch on the guitar, there are, of course, many who are much better technically. But the question I'm often asked is 'how can I learn to write a song?'.

I can show someone the chords and notes that might make up a particular piece of music but it is very difficult to show someone how to put these together to create a new piece of music. I don't think this can be taught. I think you either have it or you don't. 

I also believe to be the case with any creative endeavors. Technical ability does not go hand in hand with creativity. 

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann January 30, 2017 - 2:36pm

Yes, it can be taught. The biggest problem with people who aren't creative is that they think it's in-born, and they say things like, "I'm not creative" or "I'm not an artist." I hear it all day long working at an art store from the tag-alongs while the family Artist shops. When you convince yourself it's something you should be able to do from the start without any effort, that's death. (It's also super annoying and dismissive to people who've worked their butts off for years to get where they are!) People are embarrassed to be a rookie and don't want to go through the awkward phase of learning something new and sucking at it before they get good at it. If our education system were centered on teaching creativity and critical thinking, and focused on teaching people to paint and write fiction the way we focus on teaching arithmatetic, then everyone would know how to paint and be creative more or less the same way people know how to do math now. With varying skill, but still able to do the basics. Most of our education is about the left brain, and about putting the right brain to sleep and telling it to shut up while you do mind-numbing work.

I think there's a very, very small number of people who are hopelessly tone-deaf and can't be taught. They exist, but not in large numbers. And a huge number of people think they're the tone-deaf ones, but they're not, they just haven't actually ever tried or put in the practice.

We also buy huge into the myth that things like writing come down to a kind of blurry, shadowy, mystic process. I think even writers do this to explain why they're good in some areas but not in others, and to dismiss trying to learn those parts of writing they're less comfortable with in any kind of scientific way. "Oh, well I'm not THAT kind of writer. I do it this way." The truth almost always is, you could be that kind of writer if you wanted. :) There is a certain level of subjective magic in it, yes, but it can be broken down and studied in systematic ways. Rhetoric and Narratology are very worthwhile areas of study.

All you really need are hard work, motivation, and average non-tonedeaf genetics. That, and a good teacher.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal January 30, 2017 - 11:09am

BW's evaluation of our education system is accurate, and says a lot about those in charge, doesn't it..?

But the last sentence, I think, has one more line underneath. When you need hard work and motivation, what you really need, underneath that, is desire. I mean sure, yes, teachers along the way are priceless, and you do need *some* aptitude for what you're trying.

But you gotta want it.

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann January 30, 2017 - 2:39pm

I agree, desire is more or less what I meant by motivation. If you really want it and are willing to put the work in, you can do it.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal January 30, 2017 - 2:46pm

I take it a bit further still- if you really want it, you're willing to put in the work, no question.

Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading Adjustment Day February 12, 2017 - 2:25pm

Some might argue that no one can tell you how to be original, that this is a contradiction in terms, a logical fallacy... those people haven't taken my creativity workshop, available for just 12 easy installments of .15 Bitcoins, message me for details.

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. February 12, 2017 - 2:45pm

@Nick. I don't know you. I don't know what .15 Bitcoins would buy, but this is funny.  I also don't know what a logical fallacy is, .... twelve easy intallments. Twelve installments of anything is excruciating. Too scared to PM. and now almost laughing. So, either way kidding or dead serious, this is drop dead hysterical, good writing. Thanks.

Eric Romm's picture
Eric Romm from I'm from California February 21, 2017 - 2:39am

How can you teach someone creative writing? I mean writing definitely but how to teach someone to be creative? Isn't that subjective? 

Not everyone is creative right, at the same time there are creative people who can't write (express) well. You can teach them to write.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal February 23, 2017 - 10:51am

Hmmm...

You can teach people how to think in other ways. Of course, they have to be willing to learn, but that's true with anyone and any subject.

For instance, critical thinking. You can demonstrate and explain the process of breaking things down to their parts, looking for route causes, blah blah blah. The scientific method is something that's taught.

You can teach someone to think without cognitive bias. How? You explain what cognitive biases are, how they manifest, point out when they show up, etc., and give alternate processes. Maybe it's a rigid structure to follow at first, until the student develops his/her own way, while hopefully always keeping the cognitive biases in mind that might rear their ugly head.

I don't see why this can't be done with creativity. Proper teaching involves a lot of nothing more than guiding, anyway. Just remember that still doesn't mean it'll take with every student, especially to a great degree.

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann February 23, 2017 - 6:26pm

Yeah, you just exercise that part of the brain. It's not wildly complicated or mystical. You use it, and it gets stronger. Creativity exercises. Art. Some people swear by meditation. You have the capacity to be very creative; it happens in your sleep every night. It's a matter of making inventive connections and generating imaginary imagery or scenarios.

I had a literature class that taught creativity. We explored scientific ways of breaking down and examining the nuances of language to generate wild interpretations based fully in textual evidence, and then we coupled that with lots of weird surrealist techniques to tap into creativity. The most insane one used a technique that took advantage of non-restrictive modifiers to write a potentially infinitely long sentence. We started with 1 short kernel sentence of what we thought Shakespeare's “Sonnet 18” was about, and then we added a non-restrictive modifier explaining something in that sentence, and then another non-restrictive modifier explaining something in that non-restrictive modifier, and then another one explaining something in that one, and on and on. He made us write a 6 page sentence. Brutal. One girl asked, can it be double-spaced? We all hated her, because the professor purposely told us to make it single-spaced just because she asked. I didn't think it was possible to write, and I was amazed by what came out.

A lot of creativity techniques are really simple. A great one is to just list the three most obvious, inarguable things you can about a work, and then invert them so they state the opposite, and try to see if you can argue for the opposite. e.g., This is a story about addiction and drug addicts. -> This isn't a story about addiction and drug addicts. Maybe the story is really about ...

A similar one is to look at a story as implying scale of values, or a kind of value binary of good/bad. You line up 3 of the most positive, incontestable values, then ask, if those are good, what’s bad? Then you invert them and make a case for the opposite. It does't matter if it's wrong or right. You're trying to invent possibilities, and to use the elements of a medium to help give those possibilities concrete form.

Creativity can be taught. It's just that almost nobody teaches it because we see it as lacking pragmatic value. And whenever you had a teacher that tried to teach you it, you probably resented it and/or thought it was stupid. For one, it's usually done in a really overly artsy fartsy way, and then to make matters worse, your left brain will kick in and try to tell you what you're doing is stupid, you look silly, etc., and in general shut the whole creative process down before it even happens.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal February 23, 2017 - 10:52pm

He made us write a 6 page sentence.

Professor Dickens???

 

your left brain will kick in and try to tell you what you're doing is stupid, you look silly, etc.

Call me crazy, but I think that's it right there. How much our behavior is influenced by the judgements of others, even before the judgements occur, is really something.

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman February 24, 2017 - 1:14pm

Lynda Barry talks a lot about teaching creativity, and one of the exercises she uses is from Ivan Brunetti, who wrote an awesome little book about cartooning. One exercise is to draw a castle in 2 minutes. Then, draw a castle in 1 minute. Then 30 seconds, 10 seconds, and 5 seconds. By the time you get to 5 seconds, your castle inevitably looks like shit.

Barry uses this exercise because it gets people used to seeing their silly work, and it gets people used to producing work that can turn out silly. I think there's a lot of hesitation to do creative work because people new to the discipline are afraid of what others will say.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal February 24, 2017 - 3:58pm

Or maybe being confronted with their own inadequacy...