Not long ago, I witnessed a debate on a professional list-serve about creativity. The conversation questioned if artistic, creative people are born that way, or if art and creativity can be taught.
It was interesting to read people’s thoughts on this topic. But then it began to turn into one of those conversations that go round and round in chicken-or-the-egg fashion, like nature vs. nurture in genetics; should prisoners be punished or rehabilitated; does spanking create bullies; and is Colin Firth the one true Fitzwilliam Darcy?
After a while, I checked out of the conversation because my own opinion is, in practical terms of life and work, Who cares?
If I want to improve my skill set as an editor, writer, or any other creative endeavor, I’m going to do so by practice, education, and trial and error. That’s what works for me. In my mind, and world, it makes no difference if my working skills came as a gift I learned to use, or a skill I learned to develop. I just want them, as many as possible, and I want to use them in the best and most efficient way possible. That means learning. Sometimes that means school.
In 2009, when I received an Artist Fellowship from the Delaware Division of the Arts, I used part of the grant funds to attend a week-long short story course at Rosemont College, in Bryn Mawr, Pa. The Rosemont Writers Retreat is presented by Philadelphia Stories and taught by Elise Juska. Spending a week immersed in short stories, with a small group of writers, was right up there with a week at Pemberley, in my book.
This year, I’ve decided to start 2011 with more school, so I enrolled myself in Alexandra Sokoloff’s Screenwriting Tricks for Authors online workshop. The course began on New Year’s Day with a bang of students describing projects and working on premises. Three days in, I have a notebook going full of insightful questions about my own WIP, and a list of books and films to study as structure models. Already I feel I’ve more than earned back the (shockingly small) fee I paid, and there’s still two more weeks to go.
But I confess that while this course is great, story structure is not wholly new territory for me. If I really want to expand my skill set, I need to try a new area of creative work, and push my comfort zone as an artist. This is scary stuff. It’s putting yourself out there. Sort of like what this guy had to do.
You can’t learn if you don’t try, so I’m going to do it. After Alex’s course on story structure, I’m plunging right into…..a poetry class.
I am not a poet. I like poetry. I read it. I have friends who are poets. They are just like me, except they know how to write poetry. Were they born with that skill, or did they learn it?
I don’t know. I do know that I’d like to know how to write poetry, so I’m taking a course, sponsored by the Delaware Literary Connection and taught by Maryland poet Josiah Bancroft.
Will I write decent poetry? Is there a little poet person living inside of me since birth, just waiting to get out? Is there a black hole where my inner poet should reside and I’ll take this course and find that out? I don’t know the answer. But I know I’ll never know if I don’t try to find out.
Are you starting a brave new decade with trying to learn a new skill? Taking a course? Writing a poem? If so, I’d like to hear about it, so I can applaud your efforts.
I’m not sure it really matters how you learn to create, as long as you answer whatever part of yourself urges you to do it.
It’s sort of like this question: Is there such a thing as too many wet Mr. Darcys?
Tell me about it.