Teaching | Teaching Philosophy

I believe anyone can be a creative writer and I believe any writer who is diligent and approaches their education seriously can become a more competent writer. Yes, writing is hard work. No, writing cannot be learned all at once--it is a recursive, incremental art. But in the end, I believe those who are serious in their intent to learn--those who stay committed in the face of rejection--will eventually succeed.

I've heard it said creative writing can't be taught and I wholeheartedly disagree. Creative writing, like any other art, is a discipline that requires mastery of certain basic craft elements. Structure, theme, plot, characterization, audience, narrative arcs, points of view, dialogue, and balance of narrative and scenic time can all be taught quite easily to willing and interested writers. Aside from the basics, one of the most important lessons a writer can learn is that--even though writing is primarily a solitary act--they are not alone. As soon as a writer understands that other writers are plagued with the same insecurities they are, that other writers have just as many false starts and awkward first drafts as they do, that other writers find it just as hard to plant their butt in their writing chairs, then that writer will gain the measure of confidence necessary to giving an authentic voice to their creative impulses. To this end, my first goal in any creative writing classroom is to put writers at ease through an atmosphere of trust and respect. I believe in sharing my authority with the class, to empowering them to take responsibility for their own educational goals and help them acquire the tools they need to continue to learn on their own, long after my class is over.

I also like to dispel the myths of creative writing as quickly as possible. To wait for a muse to inspire creativity is a self-defeating fallacy. Writing is hard work. Writers have to write. Writers must also learn the value of revision. No first draft, by no matter how good an author, is as good as it could be without editing. My favourite quote I like to share comes from Ernest Hemingway, where he's reported to have said "the first draft of anything is shit." I like this quote because it's a little shocking, and once the nervous laughter subsides, I get to explain how freeing this attitude really is. Writers should not be crippled by the fear of creating less-than-perfect work and a liberating, shitty first draft is a great way for them to remember why they write in the first place--because it's fun. After all, if writers aren't enjoying themselves while they write, how can they possibly expect readers to enjoy their work once they're ready to share it with the world? A new talent, I believe, should be nurtured in its growth and sheltered as long as possible, for once writers feel ready to attempt publication, only then do they realize they're not just competing with their contemporaries for readers' attention, but they're up against every published writer who's ever lived. A daunting realization, but with the confidence that comes from solidly learning the craft in a trusting atmosphere of respect, it's a realization I believe should be a welcoming experience.