Some people wonder whether IEW, a writing method that teaches specific skills of structure and style, will turn out “cookie cutter” writers, instead of writers who can express themselves in their own unique way. The answer is, “No!”
IEW utilizes the pedagogy of imitation, in which the teacher directs the student, by instruction and demonstration, in the correct use of the skills, followed by repeated practice and correction of the student. After fully internalizing the techniques, the student is able to employ and manipulate them in his own creative and unique style.
According to Dr. Yaron Vansover, this powerful teaching approach was also used by the famous cellist, Pablo Casals:
Pablo Casals, the noted Catalan cellist, was once asked if he thought a student might have a good idea of his own, an idea deserving of estimation, that he might adopt to intensify the expressive ability of his own personal interpretation. He then jumped up excitedly and went to the wall. ‘No!’ he said, ‘the student must be like an apprentice. The master draws the line, and the student retraces it’. He made a gesture with his arm, drawing an imaginary line along the wall… One of the memorable phrases he liked to use was ‘a good imitation is better than a bad original.’
Did the great cellist Pablo Casals suggest that his students choose their own bowings, fingerings, and dynamics in the Bach partitas they played? No, Casals had them imitate his style with absolute precision, and only when every nuance of their performance was absolutely identical to his, did he say, ‘Now you know enough to do it differently than I.’ Why teach writing any differently?
Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, the founder of the Suzuki method, called the imitation method of teaching and learning the Mother-Tongue Approach. He believed that children could acquire musical ability in the same way that babies and young children easily acquire their native language, through listening and imitation. Suzuki declared, “Musical ability is not an inborn talent but an ability which can be developed. Any child who is properly trained can develop musical ability just as all children develop the ability to speak their mother tongue. The potential of every child is unlimited.”
The exciting truth is that, through deliberate training, every student can develop writing ability, just as every child can develop musical ability. The writing tools of structure and style are a passageway, not a roadblock, to creativity in writing.
Photo credit: Pablo Casals by Getty Images