On writing

Can Writing Be​ Taught? – What a Creative Writing Degree Can Offer You

Can you teach someone how to write good fiction? Is a Creative Writing degree worth the money and time? Is story-telling a naturally born ability? These are a few of the questions that came to mind when I applied for an Undergraduate degree in Creative Writing.

I’m not sure I can give a definite answer to any of them, and no answer will be agreed upon by everyone. But I will offer my opinion and make a case for it.

Can Writing Be Taught?

I don’t believe writing can be taught. I do believe that you can learn to write well, but I don’t think there is a book/course/instructional video out there that can give you the answer to how you’d go about it. No one is born with a natural ability to write excellent prose (or poetry). What great writers are born with, however, is a passion for story-telling and the ambition to offer readers a unique experience. Things like syntax and plot devices can be learned by almost everyone, and they are excellent skills to have even if you don’t plan on writing the next New York Times Bestseller.

Is a Creative Writing Degree Worth the Money and Time?

It depends. A Creative Writing degree can be a lot of different things for a lot of different people. For someone who’s never written a story before, it can be a way to explore new ways to be creative. For an amateur writer, it’s an opportunity to build upon a skill set that’s already there, and it will help them polish their techniques. It’s also a humbling experience. On a Creative Writing degree, you’re constantly surrounded by other writers, and you are asked to put up your work for critique and to critique other people’s work. This leads to a mandatory reassessment of the quality of work you produce, and if anything, it drives people forward.

For me, it was a chance to discover what was otherwise beyond my reach as an international student. The degree introduced me to a lot of great reading material, for as I’m sure every writer here this knows, you cannot write well if you don’t read a lot. It was also the best and quickest way for me to improve on writing in English.

If you’re considering applying for a writing course, think about what you want to gain out of it. You don’t need a degree to become a published authour, and having one won’t guarantee you’ll be one either. A Creative Writing degree will not teach you how to write. What it will teach you, is discipline, because knowing how to write is just the tip of the iceberg on your journey to actually doing it and seeing a piece of work through to the end.

Is Story-Telling a Naturally Born Ability?

No, definitely not. However, story-telling must come from a desire to do just that: tell a story. And it must be sustained by the ability to pursue this desire without expecting something in return. But there will always be something waiting at the end, whether it’s confidence in self and own ability, money or fame, writing will always reward the faithful craftsman who puts in the time and effort.

‘So, you want to be a writer?’


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