On Becoming a Novelist Themes

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Education

With an earned doctorate and decades of experience teaching at the college level and in writers' workshops, John Gardner is ambivalent about the good and harm that education brings to aspiring novelists. His protégé, Raymond Carver, also a writer and teacher of writing, says even more strongly that his enthusiasm about getting an education had been stronger before he received one.

The cons of education are that it can stifle creativity. English teachers expend so much energy enforcing "proper English" and making students ferret out symbolism that they engender writing that is overblown and fails to realize the more important matters: vivid characters engaged in realistic situations making decisions and taking actions. Instructors in writers' workshops, if famous, are preoccupied with their own writing and give an inordinate amount of attention to the most outstanding students. Many writers are bad teachers, but their writing reputations help the...

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This section contains 1,073 words
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