As someone who recently graduated with a Masters in Creative Writing, I’ve more than once come across the attitude that I spent the last two years wasting my time. That writing, unlike any other branch of the arts, is one of those things you can either do, or you can’t. That Creative Writing degrees are little more than some kind of academic pyramid scheme, producing perhaps a couple of Creative Writing tutors per cohort, who will then go on to sell false hopes to yet more deluded scribes.
It’s a depressing scenario, and one that I think is unfair. I can’t imagine a world in which artists who complete Fine Art degrees are somehow looked down upon if they have to be taught life drawing, and are deemed failures if they don’t end up with their own exhibition at the Tate. Writing is a craft like any other; it can be taught, and furthermore, it’s one that has intrinsic value. The ability to express oneself precisely and evocatively using words enhances every facet of life. Communication is key, and what does a Creative Writing course do, if it doesn’t develop and enrich communication?
Writing can be a lonely pursuit, and writers are often introverts. Put a few in a room together, though, and the energy is palpable. Ideas flow, and the tapping of keyboards becomes the soundtrack to creativity. The energy that comes from collaboration and co-operation can be transformative to a writer who has previously only ever scribbled away furtively. Being among other writers helps you claim your place at the table; and not only that, it puts you in touch with the people you need to know.
Successful writers who look down on Creative Writing courses are being disingenuous, I think. They disregard the luck factor, and the ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ aspect of the publishing business. Not all of us are born into the right circles to be rubbing elbows with the literary hoi polloi, and joining a Creative Writing course is an excellent way to meet writers, be put in touch with agents, and learn how to navigate the journey towards publication.
So, if you are considering signing up to a writing course, be it at Bachelors or Masters level, an online recreational course, or an adult education class, don’t let the nay-sayers put you off. You will hone your craft, make lasting friendships, and possibly even start a new career. And at the very least, you will be given deadlines and feedback – the two things all writers need most.
Nic Benson has been immersed in books and literature all her life. Over the past twenty five years she has worked as an English teacher, a bookseller and a school librarian; has run writing and reading groups; completed various residential and university-based writing courses, and recently gained a Masters in Creative Writing at York St. John University. Find out more.
Want to be the first to know when a new call for submissions goes out? Sign-up here.
Imagery by Green Chameleon via Unsplash