Nick Mamatas went on a Tweet storm yesterday about creative writing teachers barring students from writing genre fiction. It sparked conversation in the various Internets where writers dwell. I had thoughts.
I think Nick took it too far. Were we close, I’d ask him who hurt him, but alas, we’re not. I do think Nick was onto something, though.
(I should preface the rest of this with the disclaimer that I am not a fiction teacher, nor have I ever had the opportunity of teaching fiction writing, and nor is this a criticism of any creative writing teacher in particular. It’s a hard and thankless job, and it takes a special person to legitimately be excited to help others grow and succeed.)
I grew up reading comic books and was firmly in the Marvel camp, more specifically with the X-Men.
For the last couple years, I haven’t watched any Marvel movies (save for the X-Men movies, but they’re in their own bubble universe). It wasn’t for lack of desire. I just missed them at the theater, and then I missed them at home, and before I knew it, I was like seven movies behind. I wasn’t going to jump back in with the latest at that point, and the new ones kept coming out.
So the lady and I have been catching up, and we finally got to Thor: Ragnarok. I liked it. It was fun. Trouble is I feel like the filmmakers did everything they could to not make a Thor movie while making a Thor movie. I don’t think they were subtle about this (there is no other reason for them to cut Thor’s hair than for it to be symbolic).
If you had someone encourage you to write when you were young, he or she may have said, “paint me a picture.” As it turns out, this would be the worst advice anyone would ever give you. Even more dire is it may be the foundation of what many people believe to be good writing, and it’s evident as one of the most pervasive problems I see in the work of new writers.
Sometimes I think, maybe one day, I’ll get to teach a creative writing class. I think I would really enjoy it, and I think I could be reasonably good at it. In these times of grand fantasy, I consider the lessons I might bestow upon the next generation of writers.
Chief among them would be, as the writer, you’re not the painter. You’re the person at the paint store. Your readers aren’t using your imagination. Your readers are using their imaginations.