Thursday, 6 May 2010

Creative Writing Courses - Part 1- Advantages / Disadvantages

I am going to be writing a couple of posts about the advantages/disadvantages of creative writing courses and also my experiences (part 2). I thought it might be useful for a few people. when I thought about applying for a CW degree I googled about the advantages but there wasn't much out there at the time. So I hope this might help someone at some point.

I also want to point out that:
  • I know a lot of writers who did creative writing courses and have gone far e.g. published, agents, book deals. 
  • I know a lot of people who stopped writing as soon as their certificate was nailed above their fire place. 
  • I also know a lot of people who didn't do a course and have succeeded too. 
At the end of the day, even if you do a course or you don't do a course, you will still need the following:
  • Motivation
  • Determination
  • Dedication 
  • Realistic about rejection/acceptance
  • Plus ideas, of course!
Advantages for creative writing courses:
  • Discipline - You can't put it off. A deadline is a deadline. 
  • Motivation - Prompts help a lot of people. Also preparing for editing groups is a good kick up the backside.
  • Feedback - From peers and tutors. My advice is to be in an editing group that your best friend or flatmate isn't in. You want partial advice, not someone who is overly nice/nasty. However, having a friend on the same course can help you have someone to bounce off ideas and have pre-edit discussions. Feedback helps push one to be a better writer and step up one's game.
  • Competitive - Not racing but having the attitude of 'I want to write a story that will get clapping too.' It is healthy. Again, it's motivational and it spurs you on to write. 
  • You can learn the rules and then break them. 
  • Book recommendations - find new writers to explore. 
  • Like-minded friends. 
  • You need to also remember - the tutor's advice isn't always the right advice. Get confident with your own judgements.
Disadvantages for creative writing courses: 
  • Money
  • Time - a degree is three years. Someone famous once said writing is a lifelong apprenticeship so those three years are just a drop in the ocean (I might have paraphrased). 
  • You can find a lot of advice in 'how-to' books or essays on the internet. 
  • Attitude of 'you can't teach talent' - no you can't. Its about nurturing. 
  • Read, read, read is the best education and then write, write, write - Actually this is the best advice!
  • You can only work on assignments.
Having a degree doesn't give you the advantage over someone who hasn't got a degree. Its about the words you write. You can also create most of the advantages at home by making up your own deadlines, own goals, etc.

I will be also writing a post about my experiences of attending a BA, MA and also evening class soon. One was a complete disaster, another one had be reconsidering my future and another one got good near the end.  


KerryTravels said...

oh jess! Interesting I never finished the BA and have quit prematurely every creative writing course I've ever taken I prpbably fall into the 'don't do it' camp.

Love books, love writing, for the most part love the company of other writers and yet....

Just sit down and write - that's my take on it!


green ink said...

This is great! Thanks for sharing!

Really liked this line in particuar: the tutor's advice isn't always the right advice. Too true.

Look forward to hearing the rest!

Matt Humpage said...

Some good points Jess.

I found the MRes classes to be a bit of a waste of time. I did what I wanted to do and still got a first. The tutor's advice definitely isn't always right! You should never be shy about forging your own path.

Equally, it did give me another year to write what I wanted, and furnished me with a couple of new letters after my name. Horribly expensive though!

Jessie Carty said...

some really excellent points about taking creative writing classes. I took three as an undergrad and then I went on (10 years later) to obtain an MFA.

Some of the best things I took away from the MFA?

1-learning more about the history and contemporary art of writing
2-the fellow writers i met. we developed such a wonderful community

and at least i can write the student loan interest off on my taxes :)