In a recent essay in the Guardian Review Hanif Kureishi called creative writing courses 'a waste of time'. I have some sympathy with the view that you can't teach people how to write. But you can definitely learn how to improve your style and technique. Yesterday's follow-up article gave some great advice from different author-teachers. I particularly liked Jeanette Winterson's sage and pithy contribution.
1) I don't give a shit what's in your head. By which I mean if it isn't on the page it doesn't exist. The connection between your mind and the reader's mind is language. Reading is not telepathy.
2) I don't care whether you like the texts we study or you don't. Like or dislike is a personal thing and tells me something about you, but nothing about the text. If you don't think something is well written, convince me. If you do think so, convince me. Learn from everything you read and understand how to learn from everything you read. And above all read! My classes use texts I am pretty sure they won't know because I want them to see how wide is the world of books and thought and imagination. I am trying to reposition them in relation to, in response to, language.
3) Writing is a love affair not a solitary pleasure. You can write about anything you like but there must be a connection between you and the material.
4) Do not take any 'advice' on how to write from anyone who has not written and published a significant piece of work. (Ezra Pound was right.)
JEANETTE WINTERSON (in her role as professor of creative writing at Manchester University)