This time I stumbled upon a pretty old article in the Literary Review called Should We Teach Creative Writing? by Malcolm Bradbury, an author and academic. The essay is a long one and talks about a question that many authors even grapple with today. You may like writing, but have you thought about majoring in literature or doing a course in creative writing? There are many who say that experience is teacher enough and everyone has a story to tell.
“I sometimes feel that, under all the macs and the sweaters, the suits and the dresses, there beats in almost every case the heart of a would-be writer.”
Which is a problem. If everyone has a story to tell, there will be too many stories. This is the case now. Little did Bradbury know about the impending future of self-publishing. As everyone has a story to tell, probably their own story, Bradbury does not put his foot down on writing. Everyone has the right to write their own story, but the need to publish is questionable. That’s all.
You can ask yourself this when you think of publication too. Do you really think the book needs to be published? Does the world need it since readership is falling anyway?
“The beginning writer today, then, tries to make his or her mark in a world where there seems an excess of articulacy, an over-abundance of expression, a vast log-jam of words; a world, too, in which the novel is a form at risk, and where morale is poor; a world where, moreover, the significant audience for fiction seems limited and hard to reach. Should one, then, be teaching creative writing at all? It may not necessarily be a service to add to the abundance – nor to encourage people into a profession in many respects unpleasant, egocentric, subject to chance and fashion, and in economic terms profoundly unjust.”
A writer needs to be someone who ‘thinks’ he is a writer and then only will people believe that he is. Bradbury points at the comical reasons for which a writer who can by no means write but does becomes a success. It’s not very lucrative to be a writer unless you are J.K.Rowling and strangely enough writers back then in Bradbury’s time and now make ends meet by doing almost anything except writing.
In spite of all this, Bradbury advocates writing schools, particularly writing that culminates from the study of literature, though writing associated with literature alone could be a strait jacketed enterprise. Bradbury is also cynical of writing exercises that train authors to come up with characters one week and plot the next.
So what does Bradbury really think of creative writing being taught?
“People cannot really be taught how to write: the essential prompts lie too deep. But they can, I think, be taught to write better: to penetrate more deeply into what they are doing, to perceive what it is that they are indeed doing, to acquire that degree of stylistic maturity and self-authority which is the commanding mark of a real writer.”
So the germ of the writer must exist. Then only can it be polished and harnessed. A creative writing course forces the student to write and sharpen intent, so if you really want to spend your money and time on a reputed creative writing course, why not?
You might want to take a look at some creative writing courses here: http://www.collegemagazine.com/top-10-schools-for-aspiring-writers/