Friday, 13 April 2012

L is for Learning

Can you learn creative writing? It sounds like a daft question since I'm on a creative writing MA (an experience which I really recommend). I don't, however, think you can learn everything you need to know on an MA or any other course. But you can learn some valuable lessons.

  • How to benefit from criticism, even if you don't always take it
  • How an experienced reader experiences your book
  • How to pick out what's good and not good in your own writing
  • How other writers do it

But the most valuable course I have ever done was an Open University course (A215) which was on creativity as well as the nuts and bolts of putting words down. How to come up with new ideas, how to identify what kind of writer you are, giving you permission to pursue your own style and genre while developing your inner editor. It was the closest to teaching me storytelling, as opposed to the craft of writing, which the MA helped me work on. I think storytelling is something you are partly born with, and it partly develops through reading extensively. I can also recommend the Open College of the Arts, which now offers a degree in Creative Writing for people wishing to extend and develop their skills.

But the most valuable lesson I learned was letting someone read my work with a critical and experienced eye. It isn't easy to listen to what someone else thinks isn't working, but when the smarting eases, you often find they are right. And sometimes, you see that you can stick to your guns, because you see that what you were trying to do wasn't fully realised, and you can extend it. Either way, the work gets better, and you internalise a few more hints about writing. Critiquing other people's work was also valuable, because very often you pick up in someone else's writing problems with your own. 


  1. If I ever finish the diss, I may check out the Open University...

    1. I'm very tempted to do one of the OCA's courses. Just to keep someone looking at my work critically. And of course you'll finish the dissertation!