“Creative Writing? You mean English…Right?”
“Creative Writing? Is that a module you’re doing for your Literature degree?”
“Creative Writing? So…Do you want to be a librarian?”
“Creative Writing? What a waste of three years!”
If you have ever entered, or even considered entering into a Creative Writing degree, I can guarantee you have heard one of the above lines. I would even go as far to say that it should be listed on the ‘Things Included On This Course:” page of the university prospectus.
Okay, sure the course has its cons, it’s weird moments, and it’s occasional “do we really need to know this?” moments…But doesn’t every course?
Let us start with the good things though! Here is my list of ‘pros’ for doing a Creative Writing degree…
Pro #1: Friendship/Networking!
One of the best things I found about this course is how willing everyone is to help each other. You learn very quickly within this degree that you can’t get anywhere without contacts, and the course will quickly help you build those friendships with people who understand you. Take one look at Twitter for example and dive into “Writers Twitter”. As you will have seen from my last post, Tweeting For Twits, “Writers Twitter” is a MASSIVE community and there is one simple reason for that. Writers need each other. Without a community of friends, writers could very easily become hermits, shutting themselves away from the world to write in a dark corner alone, only to come out from said corner with a sad, crumpled manuscript that hasn’t been gazed upon by anyone’s eyes other than their own. Which leads me to my next point…
Pro #2: Workshopping!
That manuscript of yours isn’t going ANYWHERE without some workshopping! A big thing my Creative Writing degree taught me is, no matter how proud you are of your work, something is wrong with it, and something can ALWAYS be improved. You have to remember when writing that if you want to be published, you’re not just writing for yourself, you’re writing for an audience. While something might make perfect sense in your head, there’s a very high chance that an outsider isn’t always going to know what’s going on. Workshopping makes sure that what you see in your own head is being seen by your readers too which is SO IMPORTANT when you’re trying to get across all the weird and wonderful things that are brewing out of your brain and onto a page.
Pro #3: Learning New Things!
As with most degrees, there are many different modules to choose from during your time at university, however, this is especially important in a Creative Writing degree. You may have spent your entire writing life thinking you’re the next Stephen King…Only to find out that people don’t find your version of horror that scary. That’s a bummer right?! Without a Creative Writing degree, you might just end up giving up after your (what feels like) billionth rejection letter…HOWEVER, with a Creative Writing degree, a tutor or classmate might point out that they really like the magical aspect of your writing which could lead to you choosing a fantasy module. Or maybe someone thinks your writing is pretty funny, taking you to comedy. Maybe, you’ll go in completely a different direction and try your hand at non-fiction and learn that memoirs are your calling, or perhaps you discover a natural talent in songwriting or scriptwriting! Your degree is three years giving you plenty of time to explore the different types of writing and learn where your talents lie.
Now, while all of this is pretty great, I won’t lie, the course can make you feel a bit lost at times… Here is my list of ‘cons’…
Cons #1: It doesn’t make you a writer.
If you don’t have a natural talent for writing, you’re not really going to get it on this course. A Creative Writing degree will help you to learn how to improve but it won’t turn you into J.K. Rowling if the closest you’ve ever got to writing is “The cat went outside and fell asleep, I watched it but nothing really happened. I made some tea but it was too hot to drink. I’m bored.” You need to go into this course with an excitement for adventure and a brain full of ideas. Sure you’re given plenty of writing prompts in lessons, but if you don’t know what to do with those prompts, then it’s going to be a very dull three years.
Cons #2: It doesn’t mean you’ll be published.
I remember one of my first lessons in this course. Maybe 50 of us sat in a room, ready with our notepads and pens, bright eyes and bushy tailed eagerly awaiting the tutors’ words of wisdom.
“So, who wants to be a published author?”
(Let’s guess here that maybe 48/50 hands shot up into the air…)
“Damn, that’s a lot of shattered dreams!”
Now, that might seem harsh but, unfortunately, that’s the reality of the industry we, as Creative Writing students, are heading in to. Our tutors’ hit us with the harsh reality that only a handful of us would probably make it as published authors. Yes, maybe we have a higher chance than the average Tom, Dick, or Harry, but when you think realistically of the millions of people sending in their precious baby manuscripts to agents and publishers…Your chances are pretty slim.
Con #3: You can’t always write what you want.
If you’re thinking of doing a Creative Writing degree, I’m almost betting you have a brilliant idea for a novel that you can’t wait for everyone to gasp in wonderment at. FORGET IT. “Why?” you ask? Well, that brilliant idea you have might not work for your first assignment about “The Life of A Rock.” Nor may it work for your second assignment which requires you to use a piece of art work as inspiration for a poem. Not to forget, just when you think a module is giving you an assignment you can use your idea for, the tutor may ask you to only work on things inspired by the module texts or on things you started during a writing prompt in class. Plus you have to take into consideration who your tutor is; if you’ve written a beautifully romantic tale of star-crossed lovers and your tutor hates love stories (or even worse, has just gone through a bitter divorce!) then that assignment might as well not be handed in!
Let’s say you’ve made it to third year and you’re about to start your dissertation/ECP/final project. You open the drawer you filled back in first year with all your notes and plot lines for the idea that started it all. You brush off the dust and giggle with excitement, you’re FINALLY going to write the novel of your dreams! and…it’s shit. After all your learning and studying you realise that the whole story doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t follow the right rules or break the wrong rules, it’s not original, and it’s not quite going anywhere. Once you’ve cut, rearranged, added, and polished that novel, it’s not the same novel anymore…But, trust me, it will be SO MUCH BETTER!
And that, I suppose, could be a pro.
Hope you enjoyed this post, it’s certainly something that’s been playing on my mind for a while!
Do you have anything you want to add to the list? Or maybe you have some other questions? Just send me a message and I’ll get back to you ASAP with an answer!