I thought I would write a short post here about the first term of my creative writing course. It has got ideas flowing, introduced me to other like-minded people and stressed the importance of a writerly community. But, more importantly for me, it has got me writing a lot. It has got me finishing things. Also, I go to a pretty uni and I like walking around it.
A lot has been said about the relevance of creative writing courses. People have complained that they make everybody sound the same. On my course there are sci-fi writers, poets with a vast array of voices, children’s writers and people interested in literary and mainstream fiction. And everyone has their own way of writing. None of it is disparaged or, as I have seen some complain about, literary fiction isn’t heralded as the pinnacle of writing. Everyone has their own voice and we discover ways to tone that voice through being able to experiment and think about what we do.
I am very glad I chose this course and knew I’d made the right decision when I read a novel by the writer-in-residence last summer. It is the sort of thing I aspire to. In the first poetry workshop I wrote my first rhyming couplet. I felt a little behind in that module but I loved it. I had never thought I could be a poet. But I realise now that it sharpens my voice and brings it into focus more; I think more about the words I use and discard a lot of them now. I think about how to give a sentence more melody. Though I don’t think of myself as a poet at all, experiencing something like that was very beneficial for me. I’ve since discovered that a lot of my favourite authors are poets too.
But the best thing was the fiction-writing. I feel like I understand fiction a lot more than I do poetry. There is so much to cover and the first term flashed by so quickly. The course has given me a drive, an impetus. When you’re writing by yourself without any community it is very easy to give up on things and go off to do something fun when you’re struggling. But I’ve found that it’s so much more worth it if you can work past the struggle.
One thing, though. When people I don’t know very well find out I’m doing a master’s course they can look quite impressed. I then tell them it’s in creative writing and their eyes sort of glaze over. ‘You don’t need a degree for that, do you?’ some ask. Well, no. But I want one. They may even patronisingly ask if you’re writing a novel and may make you feel uncomfortable in general. They didn’t do this when I was doing an English degree. Maybe people used to do that when English degrees were fairly new. But the secret’s out now. I like to write and I’m trying to get better at it. And it’s, for the most part, enjoyable!