I’m doing a creative writing Masters. When I tell people, they usually ask me why. Some say that the tutors must be failed writers – that it’s a matter of “those who can’t, teach”. They tell me about a fool and her money, that creative writing isn’t a serious discipline. To be thought of as someone following a discipline that doesn’t matter, as someone taking a course out of pure indulgence, can be discouraging. My first qualification was in STEM. That’s productive, but that shouldn’t be the only reason for study – it’s good to do for its own sake.
Some people think that creative writing can’t be taught – that you can either write, or you can’t. I think that’s to do with the idea that writing is effortless, even though we know it isn’t. It involves skill, and that can be tapped into, and improved.
For many writing students, signing up to these courses is also about taking ourselves seriously as writers. But to pay all this money just for a confidence boost? There’s more to it than that. It’s important to have spaces where writers work in a community of other engaged, serious writers. Writing can be lonely, and being a part of a supportive community is one of the greatest things about studying writing and the benefits of the writing degree. I’ve learned that writing is a process, which gets better the more it takes place
The skills for writing well can be taught. But as well, it’s a matter of practice. Write, write and write again. Over time, many people can learn to write well. But, in a way, the people who say you can either do it, or you can’t, also have a point. Some great writers are born. What is ‘great’? General opinion? Book sales? Number of books written? Perhaps, after all considerations, greatness something we know when we see it, but we just can’t define it.