Tag Archives: creative writing courses

The creative writing debate continued

On 4 April, I published a post entitled “Is there any benefit in studying creative writing?”, (https://newauthoronline.com/2017/04/04/is-there-any-benefit-in-studying-creative-writing/).

In that article I expressed scepticism as to whether studying creative writing can produce people who can, actually write poetry and prose. In my view creative writing courses may help to develop talent. They can not, however turn those who possess no talent for writing into people who can produce meaningful poetry or prose.

My previous post on this subject generated a very interesting debate which, at times got somewhat heated. The comments received caused me to carry out further research on the subject of creative writing. In the course of this research I came across the following article, in “The Guardian”, in which (the newspaper reports), creative writing Professor Hanif Kureishi questions the validity of creative writing. Unsurprisingly the article created considerable debate, both for and against the perspective attributed to Kureishi. Both the article (and the comments following on from it) are well worth reading. For the article please visit: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/mar/04/creative-writing-courses-waste-of-time-hanif-kureishi.

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Is there any benefit in studying creative writing?

Let me be blunt (a thing foreign to my character)! I do not believe that one can learn to be a writer by studying creative writing or by participating in creative writing events. I must, in fairness caveat the forgoing statement by making it clear that I have no background in creative writing (I neither studied the subject nor have I taken part in creative writing groups so, on this basis some may decide to take my opinion with a very large pinch of salt).

So what is my objection to creative writing courses and/or creative writing groups? I have no beef with like-minded people who wish to meet together either online or in the real world to discuss writing and bounce ideas off one another. I am sure such discussions can be highly stimulating and I know of people who have greatly enjoyed participating in them. No doubt ideas spawned in creative writing discussions have led to the composition of great literature. However observing a country scene, a conversation with a friend and many other experiences can (and have) led to the production of great art (I.E. there is, in my view nothing uniquely special about the creative writing process (by which I mean that which occurs in academic institutions)that ought to cause us to accord it particular privilege.

I stand to be corrected but, to my knowledge very few (if any) of the literary greats studied creative writing. Dickens, Tolstoy, Shakespeare and Blake (to name but a few) certainly did not. They perfected their craft through hard slog, trial and error which is, in my experience how the vast majority of writers improve their writing craft.

There are, in this world a multiplicity of individuals and organisations who promise (usually, but not always for financial recompense) to make us more beautiful, richer or yes (you guessed it) great writers. Some of these people do, no doubt mean well and are convinced that they can teach the art of writing. Perhaps, in some instances they kindle within the budding writer that spark which leds on to the production of a literary masterpiece. Perhaps? perhaps Not?

In conclusion, one can not (in my view) learn to write by studying creative writing. One perfects the ability to write by hard slog and burning the midnight oil. Beware of snake oil salesmen who say “sign up to this course” “, “buy my book on creative writing” etc “and you will learn how to write. I welcome comments from anyone irrespective of your point of view. If you have gained from attending a creative writing course do please comment. Likewise, if your experience has been mixed or negative do, please also input.