Writers Teaching Writing

Euan Semple has a knack for short posts that force me to confront some assumptions. A recent one is a case in point, entitled Mass Illiteracy:

Are those who espouse the primacy of face to face communication really just hiding the fact that they are illiterate? I mean this in the sense that they are not very comfortable expressing themselves in writing. Most people don’t really have much experience of putting thoughts down “on paper”. Not many people keep journals, letter writing isn’t what it once was, and business documents are really a very small and undistinguished subset of what is possible with the written word!

Just wondering …

It’s not quite the same issue, but Euan reminded me of something that used to bug me throughout my teaching career: the idea of young people being taught how to write (beyond the mechanics of basic literacy, I mean) by teachers who rarely if ever did any writing themselves. How many teachers teaching writing have ever actually tried their hand, successfully, at sustained writing of any sort: journalism, report-writing, essay-writing, short story writing, writing a novel….whatever?

There is a wide gulf between the ability to craft a well-honed sentence and the capacity to plan and write a sustained piece for a particular purpose.

I would be interested to hear if others think it matters.

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