How do you teach creative writing?
I've been an English teacher for sixteen years and have taught all manner of writing, much of it expository. However, I have always struggled with the idea of teaching creative writing, whether with a group of high schoolers or college students.
Sure, we can teach the basic concepts of plot, character, development and theme. We can help students dissect the works of other writers, looking at how those authors practiced their craft and how students might be able to cherry pick from that ideas to help in their own development. We can ask students what their creative intent was in their story and discuss reader reaction and ways to deliver that intent.
However, at the risk of buying into Jon Zech's theory of talent and craft, I sometimes think that writing classes should be a culling process and that those students who have been indentified as showing promise should be invited into a more advanced class where they can receive individualized attention. I also believe in the ideas of a mentor taking a less experienced person under his or her wing and helping to develop that person's talent. How Italian Renaissance of me.
That, however, can be exhaustive, too. I have often received numerous short stories and novels from people asking for feedback and other forms of assistance. Their position is that even if I'm not approaching their work as a writer, I am approaching their work as a teacher. I mention this because I don't necessarily think I have the credentials as a writer to mentor anyone. Still, mentor and peer support are critical elements in most writer development. It's one of the reasons that writers' groups are popular. Of course, some could argue a writers' group is a matter of the blind leading the blind.
One of my fellow writers, Joe Ponepinto, has always promoted the idea of a writers' community, a network creating bridges between writers of different skills and different disciplines. When I joined the Horror Writers Association, one of the things I liked is that they had a mentor's program. I have never taken advantage of it, but I was pleased that they offered a helping hand for new writers.
Ultimately, people can learn skills but to be able to apply those skills in a creative manner is key. Jon would argue that you could teach people writing skills, but you can't teach writing.