If good creative writing is about finding your own voice, then nobody can teach you how to write. Any genuine, honest writer will tell you this. Beware of courses and classes that claim to teach the ‘secrets’ of good creative writing. We live in a world of instant gratification – everyone wants to know the secret ingredient that will take their art to the next level. People want to know how to get good fast and teachers and instructors are claiming to give it to them. But there is no such secret ingredient. The simple truth is it takes time and practice to get good – lots of it. So, beware of those who claim to have the key that will transform you into a good writer. The truth is the art of creative writing cannot be taught. Finding your own original voice is something you must do alone.
However, creative writing ‘workshops’ are helpful in getting you started in the business of writing. Workshops mean craft and discipline and these things are important for anyone who is serious about becoming a successful author. All writers begin by emulating established writers. Allen Ginsberg followed Walt Whitman. Samuel Beckett followed James Joyce. Creative writing workshops are basically exercises in emulation. The writer is saying to the attendants, this is how I do it – make of it what you will.
Why is emulation so important for budding authors? Well, the simple truth is, you need to start somewhere. And you need to learn the work ethic and the value of discipline. And you also need to have something to break free from if you are to write with your own original voice. Nobody instantly becomes a great writer.
So, the next time you see an ad for a writing ‘workshop’, don’t expect a fast track to success. Expect, rather, an opportunity to engage with the discipline and the craft of writing as it is understood by someone who has had success in the field.
Literature has come a long way since Homer wrote his epics. Over 2,500 years of emulation and extrication has happened. If you are serious about becoming a creative writer, you need to think of yourself as one small link in that chain of influence. Hopefully, you will discover the most rewarding thing of all in the business – better even than the thrill of being published and selling lots of books – that is, the satisfaction of finding your own original voice.
Author: David Jordan