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Wandering through the faculty lounges of America, you might overhear an old but still annoying question: Can Creative Writing be taught? For despite the nation's numerous MFA programs—where playwrights and novelists and poets mysteriously find themselves on a payroll—the question remains valid. On the one hand, to say that Creative Writing can't be taught amounts to academic heresy, as it threatens the livelihood of people who would otherwise be mere English teachers or else living under bridges, while to assert that even a drooling idiot can write a poem smacks of the hippie/dippy conception of art as therapy -- a naive, Democratic take similar to the one envisioned by early Communism where "the people" would find their voices—an assumption based on the belief that, if only given the opportunity, your average shrimp-boat captain or lathe operator or concrete-maker could write a novel. The result, of course, were books with titles such as, "How the Steel Was Tempered."
So can Creative Writing be taught? It's like trying to solve a Zen koan. Indeed, "Can Creative Writing be taught?" is the Western equivalent of "what was your face before your parents were born?" The question is enigmatic. It defies logic, but demands an answer. And this is the cosmic irony: that at the moment when we require language the most, it fails us utterly. Let us delve into the void then—that place where yes and no both meet and separate—the gray area, inside the gray matter, where art is conceived and born.
To be more specific, teaching a Creative Writing class is like composing a sex manual: you can share your advice, techniques, tips and well, you're on your own, lover. Still, some sweet liquor exists, distilled from the grapes of craft, which will lubricate the muse and ready her for an encounter with her genre of choice.
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