Are Creative Writing Degrees Worth Doing?
There is a famous quote that says: ‘creative writing cannot be taught’, but in truth, a creative writing degree can work wonders. For me, being able to study, and being recognized for that study in a subject I truly love, is an amazing thing. Studying creative writing over my four years at university has allowed me to explore different types of writing that I would have not had the experience, nor the courage, to do so without these university degrees.
But, a word of warning, as with any degree, you must really want to study the subject you chose. I haven’t found it easy to write on some subjects, or in a particular form, for an assessment just because it is not my usual type of writing… I can’t imagine how hard it would be to do this if creative writing wasn’t your true passion.
Also, I feel, myself included, that people do not realise that the academic side of the degree is still a vital part. It was only a few months ago that I had to hand in two different assignments, both at 5,000 words. Only 3,500 out of 10,000 words were creative writing, the rest was in the form of academic essays. You also will have to prepare for seminars, critique others’ work, complete background reading and research on a daily basis, all the while writing your own work. It is not just a simple as sitting down and writing the story or poem you want to write when you feel like it. It takes discipline and self-motivation. However, this only prepares you for the life of a novelist or poet -deadlines and self-motivation will make you or break you. On top of this, with the academic side of the degree (as well as the writing skills learnt from the actual creative writing), you will gain skills that can help you in any job you chose after university.
I studied an English Literature and Creative Writing degree at undergraduate. The English Literature took up the majority of my degree, and I believe that this was the right decision for me. I cannot vouch that for everyone this would work, some would just wish for a straight creative writing degree. One of the reasons that I started to write, and that I love to write, is because I love the world of literature. I read at every chance I get – I am one of those people who is reading multiple books at the same time. So, for me, studying literature was a great experience for me. As they say, to be a writer, you must read. I fully back up this quote, unlike the previous one. Reading is learning in the field of creative writing.
After my undergraduate degree, I chose to do a Masters in Creative Writing. I have recently just finished the taught part of my degree and I am currently finishing my dissertation. The Masters was everything, and more, than I could have hoped for. It was also one of the hardest things I’ve done. One of the best things that came from the degree (and the reason I chose go to Aberystwyth University), was for a module called Writing and Publication. In this module we got to meet, and question, professionals from the publishing world. I would have never got to listen to a literary agent explain their job, their role, what they are looking for and how new writers should go about securing an agent without this opportunity. I now have pages and pages of notes ready to help me when my time comes to look for an agent. This module by itself made my degree priceless.
I am not saying that one day I will top the Amazon best-seller list, or that one day my books will be turned into films, or that it will make me as rich as J.K Rowling. What studying creative writing has done for me, has turned me from an amateur writer, into a writer who could actually take her work to an agent/publisher, and try to make a living from her passion. So yes, a creative writing degree is worth it, as long as it what you really want to do. Although, if I never write any novels, poems, etc. ever again, this degree would still be worth it. The time I had at university was the best time of my life: I met lifelong friends, and had the opportunities I could have never dreamed of. I competed as a ballroom dancer, started playing Korfball, worked as radio show producer, wrote for online magazines, and edited an anthology. I will only recommend a creative degree to those who really dream of being a full-time writer. However, if you are still weary, making into a joint degree (for example, the usual being with English Literature), or maybe undertaking a professional writing degree (creative writing, mixed with non-fiction), would be a better fit for you.