Over the years, too many to count, that I’ve been writing I must have read dozens of books purporting to teach me how to write; to explain how my writing might improve. I suppose I’ve probably picked up hints and tips here and there but I’m pretty well self taught. Which may be very evident to anyone reading my stories and ramblings. I’ve never studied a creative writing course but have often wondered if I would benefit from the wisdom of another unpublished writer. One who has possibly read the same books as me but relates it to students as though it’s the gospel of writing. Perhaps I’m being unkind to creative writing tutors, I probably am.
I spent over ten years as a management trainer, extolling the virtues of how they could apply various theories and models to their management style. Assuring them that it would improve their teams performance. Well I got away with it for ten years so I must have done something right. But the models and theories I taught them were invented by someone else, sometimes from works hundreds of years old and adapted to fit a modern environment. So do all management trainers make great managers themselves? I doubt it.
This leads me to wonder then, are all creative writing tutors great writers? If they are great at writing, why are they teaching others? Why are they not writing and making a living doing what they excel at?
Perhaps you can understand my cynicism or maybe not. Maybe some great teacher of letters on the page inspired you and shared, with you, their own unique knowledge. It’s never quite happened for me.
I’m just re-reading the only book on writing that I have ever got any real inspiration from. ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King is a witty part autobiography and part writing advice. This I can take from a man who has written and published over fifty books which have been further developed into films, and TV series. A prolific writer who is a master of words and probably the foremost writer of my generation, in my opinion. King, himself says that most books about how to write are full of bullshit and I agree with him. He calls ‘On Writing’ a short book so as to limit the bullshit. At three hundred and fifty pages, for him, it is. In his book he praises The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and E.B. Wright. It’s only eighty pages long so has little room for bullshit. Rule 17 in the book says ‘Omit needless words’. Simple instructions which are easy to follow but more difficult achieve.
If you haven’t read either of these books then they are a must.