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30 November -0001

Those that can...



‘Those that can, do; those that can't, teach.’


I'm not sure when I first heard the above, but it never rang true. I get that the teacher referred to is the kind of person who, having never done the thing, hangs on a shoulder giving instructions as to how the thing being done (by the owner of the shoulder, no doubt) should be done, and so yes, the word ‘teach’ is being used sarcastically, but still it grinds.


I'm equally sure that this grinding is due to the rare wit who, when I said I teach creative writing, dropped the ‘those that can’ nugget. My chagrin tap danced in a puddle of irony when the wit, having never written a word in their puff, went on to explain, ‘of course creative writing can't be taught.’


My reply was that I've always found I can't teach creative writing unless I'm doing it.


This brings me, rather elegantly and in a way that can't be taught, to a wonderful benefit of delivering the West Howe Writers’ workshop. There's a quote from Stephen King along the lines of, ‘If you haven't the time to read, you haven't the tools to write.’ Running a group demands I make time to read.


I regularly bring example poems to the writing group for discussion, and to act as a prompt for writing exercises. Running the writing group pushes me to look for interesting work, and it pushes me to examine the poems I read so that I can present exercises in accessible and fun ways. This process is a great leveller and simplifier. I have to examine my thoughts around a piece, structure a response to it in terms of craft, and then deliver a clear exercise based on that reading. On top of this our group discussion will often highlight an area I hadn't considered or a corner I hadn't rounded. Thankfully the group are very open to ideas, and forgiving when my exercises aren't as simple as I'd thought! The energy of the group keeps my feet on the ground and on a weekly basis the consistent search for inspiration, the close reading, the practical application, the discussion and feedback all fold into my own creative work. I try to apply the same rigour I find in my reading, to my writing.


In terms Stephen King might approve of, running the writing group provides me with the tools to write.





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