Sometimes, you just have to add your bias to the opinions of others, and since two discordant articles about literature are now closed for comments, I couldn’t help but contribute by means of a blog post.
To understand where this all comes from, you have to start with Anis Shivani’s article—Can Creative Writing Be Taught? Therapy For The Disaffected Masses—that ends on an outrageous note: “Yes, creative writing can be taught. And we’re all fucked because of it.” Hence, considering the title of the second one—Creative Writing Can Be Taught: Creative Writing Professors Answer More Important Questions—you have to expect a defensive article.
The collective opinions make for an interesting and balanced read. But I shudder at the narrow-minded premises that are disparaging of creative writing practices (teaching) outside of academic institutions. As for Mr. Shivani (and the others), if I’m fucked-up and needing therapy, it must be the result of socializing that exposes me to dogmatic ‘theorists’ who still draw a distinction between literature and creative writing, who obsess over literary criticism and literary genius, who claim their way is the only way, who assume they speak for everyone.
I have benefited from informal coaching as much as I have from my MFA program. If it wasn’t for some of my ‘so-called coaches,’ I might not have considered a masters degree at all. And now that I’m a graduate, I don’t necessarily want to teach via an academic institution. It’s not the only way to honor your talents; it’s not the only way to serve your community. Surely, it’s not only lofty academic terminology that maketh the teacher? And to take my own rant a bit further: fiction and poetry are not the only genres for ‘expressing’ oneself; and memoir is not necessarily an indication of the author ‘being fucked-up.’ What absolute tosh!
Of course literature is in crisis, as is the publishing industry, as might be MFA programs. We live in a dynamic world, and this is a particularly unsettling time in all spheres of life. But as dismaying as change might be, it’s the only way forward. We all know survival depends on being flexible, and who knows…one day…maybe cooperation might just beat conflict…maybe we could start listening to each other, instead of pounding our “Me! Me!” chests, insisting “My way is the best!”