creative writing pedagogy

Is Reading Really the Most Important Thing?

I have been really enjoying the interesting and insightful blog posts being written by the editors of Uncanny Valley. In a recent post, frequent HTMLGIANT commenter and Uncanny Valley co-editor Mike Meginnis offered notes on teaching an introductory creative writing class. He says really smart, practical things about teaching creative writing but I’ve been mulling over his first note quite a bit. He says, “1. Intro to CW should be more about ways of reading than ways of writing.” The more I think about this statement, the more I wonder if we rely too heavily on the notion that the best writers are the best readers. I think we offer this kind of advice more out of reflex than anything else. Hear me out. There is ample evidence that to write well, one must read well. Reading and learning how to read critically, exposes us to different writing styles, voices, and techniques. We can study styles we want to emulate. We can be challenged. We can see examples of how we want not to write. I cannot deny that some of my best writing instruction has come from reading everything I can get my hands on.

That said, I firmly believe while reading is important, it is not more important than writing and increasingly I worry we are sacrificing the practice of writing for young writers at the altar of reading. Without fail, almost every writer who is asked about what writers need to do to improve their craft states, first and foremost, that writers need to read. I’ve stated this myself, quite a few times, but either we’re teaching writing or we’re teaching reading and to have a creative writing class where writing is not foregrounded gets me thinking. Why isn’t it writing that is most important? Why don’t we say that to be a great writer, you need to, well, write?


Craft Notes / 231 Comments
July 28th, 2010 / 11:00 am