Can Creative Writing be Taught?


This question is asked on page one of Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. Francine has taught literature and writing for more than twenty years at major universities. For her writing of Blue Angel  she finished as a finalist for the National Book Award.

Her answer frames most of the first chapter and I am guessing a good part of the book. I read dozens of writing books at a time and in long time cycles.  What resonated with me this morning was on page one. Quoting Francine, “…if what people mean is: Can the love of language be taught? Can a gift for story telling be taught? Then the answer is no.”

And then on page two she writes, ” Like most-maybe all-writers, I learned to write by writing and, by example, by reading books.”

Because I love words, I subscribe to dictionary websites.  I love the comparisons of words provided by a thesaurus. I like hearing stories and telling them. I can never have enough books. No surprise that I find what she says uplifting

14 thoughts on “Can Creative Writing be Taught?

  1. Carole Webber November 3, 2013 / 8:09 am

    I agree with you and Francine.
    The woman I spoke about on Friday was my English teacher in high school. Daily we were given a new word. learned the meaning its roots and spelling In order to ‘own” the word in our vocabulary, we were required to us it in a sentence three times each day.

    I should continue that, as there are many words left to acquire.and less years left.

    • fictionfitz November 3, 2013 / 9:46 am

      Great idea; time, time, time

  2. neonwalrus November 3, 2013 / 9:44 am

    I have a simple piece of advice I offer to others, and often remind myself: writer’s write.

    • neonwalrus November 3, 2013 / 9:47 am

      Of course I meant, writers write. (Where is the editor?)

      • fictionfitz November 3, 2013 / 2:30 pm

        Hah, missed it. You testing me Walrus?

      • neonwalrus November 3, 2013 / 2:54 pm

        Never that.

  3. New Hampshire Garden Solutions November 3, 2013 / 7:16 pm

    I had a teacher who punished with a dictionary. Depending on the offense you had to copy at least one and sometimes multiple dictionary pages word for word, with all of the correct punctuation and usage. I copied many pages and didn’t have any fun doing it, but to this day I love words and still sometimes find myself browsing the dictionary.
    I think you could learn a lot in a creative writing course but to actually write fiction I would think that there would have to be a germ of talent there to start with.

    • fictionfitz November 4, 2013 / 7:00 am

      I will keep you posted as to fiction. Kind of like gardening might be for you, I like it.

      I am amazed that after your dictionary experience in school, you still love words.

      • New Hampshire Garden Solutions November 4, 2013 / 6:09 pm

        Many of the words I had to copy from the dictionary I had never heard, so that made me curious enough to get me reading books to see if I could find some of those fancy words in them. I’ve never stopped reading since and I could turn my house into a used bookstore with little effort. That teacher got my nose out of the woods and into books and for that alone she deserves a medal. She saw something in me that even I didn’t know was there, and if I could I’d thank her for every one of those miserable evenings I spent re-writing the dictionary while my friends were out playing.

      • fictionfitz November 5, 2013 / 5:16 am

        Great memory and story! For me that teacher feels like a wonderful mentor.

  4. jhvn November 4, 2013 / 10:10 am

    Bob, I am developing your love of words. My problem is that the connotations conjured up in one person’s mind ;by any given word may be very different from what arises in another by the same word. I too love the thesaurus. But how relevant is it to my particular audience of people who may not be reading what I’m reading. I’d appreciate your comment on this.

    Peace, John

    • fictionfitz November 4, 2013 / 10:50 am

      Hi John, if your comment is directed at me. I answer this way. I am using books as prompts to direct my thoughts toward a particular subject, most often writing. I am hoping to connect with you and other writers on my musings of writings, but not to expect that you have or will actually read the same books. For example when asking about fiction or nonfiction, it was my hope to connect to writers who write fiction or both and have them tell me of their writing experiences. Unlike you, I don’t so often ask questions as I do to pose a problem to see if you are familiar with it. If not, then I expect nothing.

  5. Adam Hughes November 14, 2013 / 6:09 pm

    I believe,anyone with a real desire to write can. But I am not so sure one can be taught how to wrote well. I suppose one can be taight the rudiments and about how to structure their sentences ect. but I Believe a writer must be one who has a strong desire to express oneself using words. A very interesting question you have asked indeed. 🙂 Great post.

    • fictionfitz November 14, 2013 / 7:17 pm

      Thanks Adam, glad you liked. I agree with you about having a strong desire. I had to elevate writing to my bucket list.

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