Recent events at school, posts and comments on LiveJournal, and other various situations and statements have brought a couple of points to my attention. The first relates to writing ability and the 'teaching' thereof. I do not understand or comprehend this idea of teaching people to be good writers. I can understand teaching people to be acceptable or satisfactory writers - there are formulas and techniques for that. However, the idea that you can actually teach someone to be a genuinely good writer is quite farcical. Talent is not equally distributed, people. What's more, talent does what it will. People teach these methods, throw around their stimulus sheets, knock up books of exercises, and so on ... but they don't work. They may help people, but they don't work in the truest sense, in the sense people want them to. They do not create brilliant writers.
There seems to be this popular idea of 'one method works for all' or 'we're going to teach you a method and this is what you should use over all else'. BULL SHIT. I'm tired of it. I've seen it all this week and it desperately makes me want to break something. Look, there is not one particular method. Indeed, the best writers have their own unique method and probably would have a hard time even explaining what they do. They just do it, they don't use prescribed formulas or techniques. They're unique and simply do their own thing. When I was more involved in the writing world than I am now, I very much noticed formulaic approaches - people would do what was considered 'appropriate', stuck to genres, and only used accepted and commonly practiced ideas. This applies to more than writing, by the way. I find the whole world very boring, 'safe', and generally stale. People aren't pushing the bar and seeing where their imagination takes them, and half the time, they don't even understand what that means (fanfiction is a direct result of that - that's not imagination, that's imitation). I find a lot to be terribly stale. I barely listen to the radio any more because a lot of what's played here sounds so much the same. I can't tell one pop twit apart from another, or one rapping moron apart from his 'enemy'.
But I'm getting away from my ramble. Where have the notions of imagination, individualism, uniqueness, and genuine ability got to? It's sad, really. As I was saying, when I was more involved in the writing world, people would discuss what you 'had' to do to succeed and it was always stuff about sticking to particular guidelines and making sure you aren't right 'out there'. That defeats the purpose of writing, really. You need to know the guidelines, you need to know the formulas and what is currently accepted to work, but if you just do that, you're not going to be that unique, are you? You've got to push past the guidelines and invent something new. That does NOT mean breaking the rules. Absolutely not. Some rules do not work any more and need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the future, but note what I said there - I did not say they should be broken, I said they should be forcibly evolved (or, in some cases, devolved back to what they were before people started breaking them, as in the case of poetry). Other rules can be used to your advantage, or are not absolute, or have not had their full potential realised.
Furthermore, the ideas of grammar and sentence structure need to be taught more widely. I've read some very imaginative ideas that absolutely STANK because people cannot structure sentences and wouldn't have a clue how to use commas. Frankly, I'm not the most knowledgeable fellow, and that's because I was never taught much grammar in school. Most people can't tell because I read a lot and I know how to use language and how it's supposed to feel, but not everyone's lucky enough to grow up surrounded by books. The basic ideas really do need to be taught, because then people will know the rules and will be able to use them to their advantage. Writing's not about following rules; it's about making rules follow you. It's definitely not about following prescriptions for success or silly stimulus sheets; writing is meant to be a highly individual expression and extremely creative. Sticking to accepted norms is the antithesis of being creative and imaginative. If you want to stick to norms, enjoy your short-term success and long-term oblivion. If you want to break rules willy-nilly, then you're the one who's going to look like the fool. But if you're going to do something thoroughly unique and take things to a higher, more advanced level, then good luck to you. You can't do it through what most people teach, though.
On a related note, seeing some of that ramble was inspired by what's happened this week, I'd like to talk about the traditional lie of the teacher, tutor, or what-have-you. All this week, the folks that my school's got in to do the QCS prep with us have been telling us how great we are, how dedicated we've been, and just how great we're going to do. I especially love lines like "I don't tell many people this, if any at all." Rubbish. My school is not that great. My grade definitely is not. These people aren't dedicated, they aren't that good, and really, their expectations of their results are just being built up. Sadly, they'll get shattered. Some are ill-mannered, some are lazy, some couldn't care less, and some, like myself, refuse to be put in a box and given formulas. I do things my way, thank you very much. If you want to recommend a nice technique to me, go ahead, but do NOT make me use it. If I feel a need to try it, I will try it, but if I don't, I'll stick with doing my own thing. I can't explain my method because ... I just do it, I suppose; things happen and I get good marks.
In any case, I'm very cynically looking forward to seeing how everyone does. We're not what we're being told we are. But it happens in anything. On just about everything, the group I'm on is told how great they are, how much better than the last group they are, and so forth. Either I somehow end up with extraordinarily gifted people or we're being lied to. My money's on the latter, because I know these people and if they're extraordinarily gifted, I don't want to have anything to do with society. But hey, keep telling me I'm so amazing if you want: makes my ego feel good.
Anyway, I have history to do. It's due tomorrow, I got my first draft back today, and some stuff needs reworking. Have a good one, folks.