Should I get a qualification in creative writing?

If you’ve come here looking for the answer to the above question, I’m afraid I don’t have it. What I do have is a list of reasons for and against studying for a creative writing qualification , which may help you to make your decision.

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Doing a creative writing qualification, such as an MA in Creative Writing, is something I’ve loved the idea of ever since completely my undergraduate degree.

I believe there’s no right or wrong answer. Whether you should work towards a writing qualification depends hugely on your individual circumstances.

However, I am a firm believer you do not need a qualification in creative writing to be a successful author. In fact, creative writing qualification are a relatively new concept. Likewise, I believe if you do gain a creative writing qualification there is no guarantee you will become a successful author.

Only so much of writing can be taught in an educational context. The best ways to become a better writer are to write more, read more, and experience the world around you. Talk to people, travel, people watch, make mistakes… it’s all rich material for story inspiration.

But if that’s not enough to answer the question, is a creative writing degree worth it, here are some points I’ve drawn up for both sides of the argument:

For:

Against:

–          Meet other ‘likeminded’ people. It’s a great way to make friends with other writers, who you will hopefully be able to keep in touch with after you graduate. I find having ‘writer friends’, with similar interests can help to keep me motivated to write!

–          Time to write. Studying a course will give you set time during your week fully dedicated to writing.

–          Add it to your CV. Earning a writing qualification may help you to secure work in a related field after your graduate, e.g. journalism or publishing.

–          Networking opportunities. As a creative writing student, you may be more likely to hear about competitions and other writing opportunities in your area. You may also be able to work on writing projects at your university, such as getting involved with the student newspaper team.

–          Get feedback on your writing via workshops and seminars. Receiving feedback on first and second drafts is the best way to improve your writing.

–          Access to society memberships, such as the Society of Authors.

–          Expensive. Master’s degrees for home students in the UK at the moment, can set you back around £8000 in tuition fees for 1-year full time study. That, balanced with the loss of earnings from not being able to work full time, is a large financial consideration.

–          Limitations on what you can write. Most courses will have set pieces of coursework on set genres you are required to complete in order to pass. You may not have as much creative freedom as you’d like.

–          Do you really need it? There is no guarantee doing a creative writing degree will result in writing success, and a lot of successful authors haven’t completed such a course.

–          Expensive. I felt the need to say it for a second time, as it’s a huge consideration and the main thing stopping me from doing a course.

 

 

Still not sure? Nope, nor me. As someone who works full-time, and sadly doesn’t have the financial freedom to be able to stop working for a year, here are a few alternatives.

  • Go part-time. The above positives and negatives will still apply, but to a lesser extent. Most universities do offer options to study part-time over 2-3 years, or study individual modules of interest.
  • Join a local writing group or evening course. Check out sites such as Meetup.com, to see whether there are any creative writing groups in your area.
  • Use online critique sites to get feedback on your work. You can find my review of scribophile, an online critique group, here.
  • Go to writing conferences. These could be day long events in your local area, or week-long conferences full of workshops, such as Swanwick Summer Writing School.
  • Do an online course. Open University is a great way to obtain a degree online and can fit around your other commitments. However, if you’re just starting out, a quick google search will bring up numerous sites. Try looking at Coursera, or Publisher’s web pages for writing advice.

Have you completed a creative writing course? Did you find it useful? As always, get in touch.

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