I am opposed to Creative Writing courses of all types

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Nightstar99, Jul 19, 2016.

  1. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    My husband has Croc spots.
     
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  2. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    LOL! :)
     
  3. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    And I have to wonder why. Some of what's considered the world's greatest literature was genre-based. Poe, Alcott, Twain, the Brontë sisters and Doyle to name just a few.
    That's why even though I've looked into getting a degree several times I've never gone through with it. I'm not into literary fiction, either and I can't imagine sitting through classes where that's all that gets discussed. I ended up doing post-grad screenwriting (tacked onto a degree in art) because it was genre-friendly.
     
  4. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    Then I shall not introduce you to my wife. :rolleyes:
     
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  5. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    Where I draw the line (or maybe it's 'lines') is between asking about writing technique, details of a profession or job/profession millieu, and specific elements to make a story work.

    For myself, I don't ask for other people's ideas on how to make my character more/less quirky, appealing, humorous, uplifting or evil-yet-charismatic.That's the stuff I wanna work out for myself so the characters are as uniquely mine as possible. Although this also spills over into psychology and perception as well which is something that can come under the purview of Advice from the Seasoned Writer.

    As far as professions go, if I haven't actually practiced that profession myself (or worked at something similar enough to engage the same head-space), I don't feel I 'own' it enough to write about it anyway, not in a major character. But having been in the military and having worked for the government, I now realize that every single government job from policing to handing out marriage licenses has a huge number of elements in common. So, I'd feel comfortable writing characters in any field of the public service. But since comedy marches to a different drum, my view of the public service may not jibe with anyone else's.

    Yup, I agree. Google is my best friend... well, after my wife... and my green grocer... and my chiropractor... Okay, it's in the top ten... somewhere.
     
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  6. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Knowledge always being free isn't a great business model for writers.
     
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  7. ToBeInspired

    ToBeInspired Senior Member

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    Again, let me reiterate the point that there's the option of not replying. There's always different ways to interpret the same same sentence. For one person they may decide that "do your own research" means they're motivated to spend the time (A - Z) on the subject they're interested in. To another person they may decide that "do your own research" is disheartening and causes them to decide to forgo the project. There are younger, aspiring, writers on here. It's a hard business and disheartening more often than not. Rejection letters can cause different effects in certain people. Some may try to send their work, which they spent X amount of time, to ten publishers. While they may have been published on the 11th, it's hard to continue without support. Each of our lives our different and possibly even our cultures (international forum), we can't blanket stereo-type people into what fits to what we're use to.

    All I'm saying, not trying to argue, is that I find it more helpful to be supportive. If you can't do that, just don't respond. I don't see the benefit in telling something they may potentially be planning to do anyway. If they're not, they'll fizzle out anyway. I like constructive criticism, not the opposite.
     
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  8. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, I couldn't agree more, about constructive criticism. I always try to be supportive and explain my position. I hate snotty responses, and try never to give them. That's just simple courtesy. Furthermore, if I have a link that might help, I give it. (Don't believe me, check my past posts.)

    And I do often say nothing. My time is limited. We're all writers or wannabe writers here, and we all have our own research and our own story problems to figure out. It's selfish to be constantly dumping our story problems on other people and expecting that level of 'help' from other busy writers.

    If I can google a research topic, so can anyone. Doing research has never been easier than it is now, with the www at our disposal. Every young person in the developed world knows how to use the internet these days. Don't try to tell me they don't.

    If you HAVE googled the heck out of a topic and still can't find the answer, then by all means ask. Somebody on here might know. But tell us what avenues you've already pursued, so we won't go re-inventing the wheel in our efforts to help. We'll feel more like helping, if we can see what you've already done—instead of feeling like hand-holders or skivvies, because the questioner is fishing for somebody else to do their work.

    The bottom line is 'you must do your own research.' And figure a way around your story problems.

    I wish new writers would stop being discouraged or offended because somebody tells them this particular truth—a truth that has nothing whatever to do with their actual writing. This is all about their preparation for writing. If they keep depending on others to do this kind of preliminary work, they are never going to progress as writers.

    It really is important to do your own work and make your own story decisions. Otherwise your story will not be yours. It will have been written by committee.

    Take the training wheels off the bike. You can ride it. You really can. That's the point I believe new writers need to take on board. You. Can. Do. It. That IS a constructive and supportive response. It might not be what they want to hear, though.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2016
  9. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    Absolutely. I don't even want my beta readers to give me ideas which, thankfully, none of them ever have.
     
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  10. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    I agree, on the whole, with the OP's sentiments. If you attend a course which 'tells' you how you should write, you're nothing but a cog in their machine.

    All that matters, is that people want to turn the page and continue reading your story, and it matters not one iota how you achieve this.
     
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  11. Nightstar99

    Nightstar99 Senior Member

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    I should probably elucidate on this a bit. I work in marketing for a university, which shall remain nameless, but its one of those smallish liberal artsy type places.

    There is nothing wrong with it academically whatsoever. We teach decent courses well to 'C & D' grade students, give them a lot of attention, provide lots of support for their wellbeing and the vast majority of them pass out at the end of their degree informing us they have greatly enjoyed the experience, got a lot out of their courses and mostly elevated themselves to being 'B & C' grade students.

    They then head out into the world burdened with tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt and degree certificates in disciplines that tell employers that they are decently competent in disciplines that have taught them to express themselves creatively and think about things carefully. They aren't really qualified to "do" anything, but they have the piece of paper which is now the bare minimum to get a job filing in an office.

    For some students like the Music and Dance, Art and Theatre and Eng Lit. students I totally get it. They are getting the opportunity to do something they love exclusively for three or four years. Most of them aren't under any illusions as to how slim their chances are of "making it" in their profession after they finish.

    The CW students. To be honest, I worry about them a bit more. They actually want to be writers and think there is some chance that they will get some kind of career writing.

    The way the courses are marketed is that they will get their writing up to "publishable standard" by the time they graduate. Which they may do, but I don't think any of this industry is very good at expressing to people quite how unlikely it is that anyone will want to publish it, far less that they will ever see a return from writing back on their £30k - £40k outlay.

    Whereas all the other grads think that at least their Dance degree might pay itself back from teaching Dance or getting an office job because the person spec said "graduate" and they were one, the CW kids actually think they are going to make a career out of CW.

    One of the lecturers disappointed me a while back when she said flippantly - "Well they all want to be writers, and of course none of them will be." And I thought - well why the hell are you teaching them then?

    Its like, if you had an industry training millions of people to become physiotherapists, and almost all of them couldn't find work, wouldn't there be some questions about that? Or is writing not a "proper" industry?
     
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  12. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    @Nightstar99: I graduated from one of those liberal arts colleges, so what you said really hits home.

    Sometime during the very first week of classes during my first year, one of the instructors said we'd all be snapped up after graduation to fill middle-management positions in corporations. For a lot of us, this didn't sound like our dream jobs, but it at least gave us reason to sigh in relief—if nothing else panned out financially, we had something to fall back on: selling out to 'da man.' It would pay off our student loans and then we could become real artists.

    I won't say that it was a waste of time. It was one of the most memorable periods of my life (and that's where I met my wife) so all's good on that score. I also landed a job because of going to art college, but that might be seen as a cheat because it was one of my classmates who hired me. (I suppose if I'd gone to Harvard School of Business, I wouldn't see this as cheating because there they call it networking.) But the job only lasted three years whereas it took me four to complete my degree. I think I still came out ahead, though, because during that three years I earned almost four times as much as I spent going to college. (I didn't manage to pay off my student loans, but that's another story.)

    Of the few classmates I still hear from these days (almost thirty years after graduating):
    • one is teaching art,
    • another is doing PR for a university,
    • one is fabulously rich after selling his software start-up to some mega-corp, and
    • one works for Statistics Canada, the only one who even came close to corporate middle-management.
     
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  13. Vagrant Tale

    Vagrant Tale Active Member

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    Everyone needs a foundation to start with. You need to know how to build a car before you can design and build your own. Ability doesn't just pop up out of thin air, you have to actually learn it. Whether you learned that through reading tons of books or through one of a million various courses out there, its the same thing. You are learning from material that is already existing.

    The very idea of opposing learning a tangible skill is utterly nonsensical.
     
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  14. kim&jessie

    kim&jessie New Member

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    every writer has something to gain from speaking to other writers. you need to walk before you can run, as vagrant said. the real skill comes in knowing the rules and when to break them, knowing which advice to take and which not to. if you don't feel the need to take creative writing classes that's great, neither have i, but shaming other people who find it necessary and saying that real skill should be developed all on your own just serves to make you look foolish.
     
  15. Nightstar99

    Nightstar99 Senior Member

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    I would be interested to see if there is any data correlating success as an author with doing a CW degree, either bachelors or graduate.

    Hmm - found this on the internet from a CW lecturer. He teaches at Kingston University in the UK. Which is apparently a highly regarded CW department that gets you into the shortlist of literary competitions. His remarks were a bit controversial, unsurprisingly, and led to a rebuttal by Anna Morris (Linked at the end)

    ""A lot of my students just can't tell a story. They can write sentences but they don't know how to make a story go from there all the way through to the end without people dying of boredom in between. It's a difficult thing to do and it's a great skill to have. Can you teach that? I don't think you can," said Kureishi,according to the Independent, which sponsors the festival."

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/mar/04/creative-writing-courses-waste-of-time-hanif-kureishi

    rebuttal

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/05/creative-writing-courses-hanif-kureishi-teaching
     
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  16. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Interesting articles, both of them. I think you can certainly learn from other writers and probably can learn from courses on creative writing, but to say you need a degree in it? I think that's something designed to get students to part with money.

    I am totally in tune with Kureishi when he advocates reading as the best learning experience there is, because that gives you a notion of what good writing 'sounds' like, as well as an idea of how many different kinds of things can be written, and how many different ways they can be written.

    I'd say the next most valuable experience is actually writing yourself. Write what you've got inside you to write. THEN look at it from other perspectives, learn about your craft and how to make your writing work to its best.

    By the time you've finished a first draft, you'll have a notion of what you want to achieve. There are lots of people out there who can offer tips and tricks to help you shape your vision—but your own voice and vision and concept of storytelling are the things nobody else can teach you. However, I'm afraid instructors can teach it out of you, in the quest for publication, perfection, best-sellerism, whatever.

    This 'creative writing course' thing is relatively new, by the way. MOST writers we grew up reading never took a course like that in their lives. Furthermore they either wrote by hand or on typewriters, so editing was a lot more difficult than it is now. There is no reason you need to pay thousands of pounds/dollars to learn how to start writing. Just start. Get a story in your head and start.

    If you begin your writing experience by taking a course, you will be writing to please the teacher, which isn't much of a step beyond high school, is it? Writing should be a lot more than fulfilling an assignment. It should be fulfilling. Period.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2016
  17. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    Must be my small-town background, but it took me a moment to realize that 'CW' meant 'creative writing' rather than 'Country-Western' (as in music style). And what that says about me (as in: am I really still a musician at heart?) I don't know. But...

    Interesting articles. My only experience with post-secondary writing instruction was for screenwriting and I have to say, I don't think it did me much good. I came away with a piece of paper to hang on the wall, but was no closer to being hired (or hire-able) as a writer despite the connections I made.

    It wasn't until I took the reigns of my writing education well in hand (for the third time, if I'm counting) that I really came to understand the writing process and what it takes to tell a publishable story... at least, I think I understand it now. I won't know until I get this damned novel finished and out into the world which, if I can't get past the deer-in-the-headlights fear that has gripped me for the last week, may be never.

    Maybe the value of a CW degree/diploma/certificate is that it helps people get past their fears.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2016
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  18. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    I googled Kingston Uni (I'd never heard of it!) and found that they seem to be quite good at "creative" things; their website quoted a Guardian article praising them... http://www.kingston.ac.uk/news/article/1660/25-may-2016-top-accolades-for-kingston-universitys-fashion-and-design-courses-in-latest-guardian-university-guide-rankings/

    "The University's internationally-acclaimed fashion programme was placed second overall in the fashion and textiles category – making it the highest ranked university in the country specialising specifically in fashion." ...This means that, while it specialises in fashion, it got beaten by a university that DOESN'T specialise; impressive!
    The rest of the article comments on how much their Sports Science has improved; like they're now 15th in the UK - up from 45th; and how their Nursing is now 10th (these are out of 54 UK Unis, so not to be sniffed at, but not world-beating) but there's NO mention of CW at all.

    I'd have expected C & W...Country and Western?
     
  19. Nightstar99

    Nightstar99 Senior Member

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    Yeah I only said that because I read an online article once about some literary competition and the comments were full of bitter unpublished writers complaining that half the shortlistees were recent grads of Kingston and they were being waived through on the basis of that.

    Otherwise, you know what I think about CW courses. I am not very keen on literary competitions either.
     
  20. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that's something I hadn't considered. Of course it would depend on the instructor's perspective. If the instructor makes a writer think they are terrible and won't improve unless they write to a certain formula, confidence won't happen. But any good writing instructor wouldn't do that. Would they?

    Good writing instructors will also ensure that verbal critiques (from themselves and other members of a group) are done courteously and helpfully in their classes as well. No bullying allowed.
     
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  21. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    Although a lot of people put the 'and' in there, the actual name of the style is Country-Western.
     
  22. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    There can also be valuable networking/professional contacts made in courses like this. There are definite advantages to knowing other people who are working (or trying to work) in the same field as you - emotional and practical advantages.
     

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