I spent the May Day Bank Holiday weekend marking creative writing folders for the lifewriting course I teach at Bath Spa University. Now, a weekend spent working (and a Bank Holiday one at that when the sun actually made an appearance) may sound like a bit of a drag but trust me it wasn’t. The 16 creative folders I read and marked were on a huge range of subjects from Formula 1 and love at first sight, to tattoos, buskers and dementia. They were also written in a diverse range of styles using different narrative techniques. Not only did I learn about transition nurses, eating disorders and South Africa but I read work that both moved me and made me laugh.
Ever since creative writing courses and degrees came into existence there’s been great discussion around whether or not writing can be taught. Having been a MA in Creative Writing student and now an undergraduate teacher of creative writing, I strongly believe there’s a great deal that can be gained from being immersed in a creative environment, working alongside fellow writers and being taught by practising writers, poets, playwrights and authors.
There’s one other thing that creative writing courses do and that’s inspire. Far from being competitive with each other (okay this might be a generalisation but this is my experience) creative writing students work together and encourage each other to improve and grow as a writer. Anyone who belongs to a writing group will know what I’m talking about. Workshopping your own and other people’s writing is all about constructive criticism, support and praise. Nobody wants anyone to fail as a writer; to not get an agent or sell masses of copies of their self-published novel. At the end of the day we all want the same thing: to write as well as we can and have as many people as possible read our novels, short stories and poems. I’m not jealous of my fellow MA alumni, Man Booker Prize longlisted Nikita Lalwani or Orange Prize shortlisted Samantha Harvey and the other authors like Jenni Mills, Rebecca Lisle, Paul Dale and Anthea Nicholson that have been published over the last nine years – the way I’m thinking about it is my time will come – namely the 12th June this year when I launch my first novel, The Butterfly Storm.
For last weeks Thursday’s Children post Elaine Jeremiah talked about being inspired by us bloggers and I couldn’t agree with her more. When I meet up with my writing friend in Cheltenham (also an ex-Creative Writing MA graduate) I go home re-motivated to crack on with writing or editing or whatever I’m working on at the time. The Thursday’s Children bloggers and the lovely WIPpet Wednesday writers, as well as all the writers and authors I’ve met via Twitter over the past year, inspire me to work harder and write more. Reading my students’ creative folders over the weekend made me feel privileged to be a part of their writing journey and I also learnt from them – they reminded me to take risks in my own writing, to not be afraid to experiment with different styles and techniques and most importantly to have fun with words.