Monday, January 23, 2012

A closer look ...

... Anis Shivani: Can Creative Writing Be Taught? Therapy For The Disaffected Masses.

I just noticed that this essay appears in the current issue of Boulevard. I can't at the moment lay my hands on my copy of that issue, but the question posed is the subject of that issue's Symposium, to which I also contributed. And while my contribution wasn't as acerbic as Shivani's, I did arrive at a similar conclusion. I will not undercut Boulevard by posting what I wrote in its entirety, but here is an excerpt:

You can learn a lot from studying how your favorite writers do what they do. But you must never do it yourself. It is perfectly all right to be influenced by them, but the manner of the influence must be indirect, downright subterranean, in fact. The perfect example of what I mean is provided by Dostoevsky, who modeled his novels on those of his own favorite novelist — Charles Dickens. It is not hard to see what the two have in common, bizarrely vivid characterization for one. But to get what Dostoyevsky got out of Dickens requires that one uniquely original sensibility genuinely encounter another. It is the sort of thing that cannot be taught in a classroom or workshop. ... There are things only life can teach you, and that you can only learn on your own. Someone else can teach you how to write like somebody else. But nobody can teach you how to write like yourself.

In the meantime, the debate continues: Rebutting Shivani.

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