Friday, January 29, 2010

Mellifluous selves

At the Guardian Review, Rachel Cusk considers the apparently well-meaning question, posed to many university lecturers in creative writing, of whether writing can be taught:
[W]riting, more than any other art, is indexed to the worthiness of the self because it is identified in people's minds with emotion. When a child writes a story she experiences her personal world as something socially valuable: her egotism, if you will, is configured as a force for good; by writing she makes herself important, she asserts her equality with – and becomes conterminous with – everything around her.

But as she grows older this situation changes. She is no longer "good" at writing. This is partly because she sees that its representational burden has become more complex. But it is also because the nature of her own importance is no longer quite so clear. The private and the public have become uncoupled; and consequently there now appear to be two kinds of writing where before there was one. There is the private, emotional writing and there is the public, representational writing. The first is too subjective to be anything other than a secret; and the second is too daunting, too objective, to attempt.

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