I think I’ve briefly covered this topic before, but it’s always good to have a refresher!
It has been 36 years since the very first MA in Creative Writing began in Britain, at the University of East Anglia. Since then, it similar courses have sprung up all across the country, with ninety-eight institutions offering degrees wholly dedicated to Creative Writing or, as I studied, combined degrees which still place a great focus on Creative Writing.
I studied English Language, combined with Creative Writing – meaning that, whenever I tell people what degree I’ve done, I sometimes find myself dropping the Creative Writing aspect – but I primarily consider myself to be a Creative Writing Student.
I have paid a little over £9,000 for the privilege of those three years when, looking back, I have done very little of any actual worth. In my opinion, a Creative Writing degree is less around the actual writing itself, or it certainly was for me, it was simply an excuse to have three more years in education, but a lazy kind of education.
It was an excuse to have the freedom to write; I think that is the single advantage of the Creative Writing MA. I didn’t learn anything during class, except one narrative rule in the final year which I completely rejected, but it gave me three years in which I was, essentially, outside of the ‘real world’ – with so few taught hours and, instead, a heavy focus on reading extraordinary amounts of classic and contemporary literature, it meant I enjoyed a kind of freedom that I highly doubt I will ever see again.
Whilst this is the part of the course I enjoyed the most, the freedom, I think it is also the main reason that many students leave education unprepared for life – or, if not unprepared, then against society in some vaguely revolutionary way. I mean, I’m not a fan of society; I think that it is crass and sickening and I’m amazed that so bland an existence should be shared by so many people, particularly when everyone I’ve spoken to has agreed that current society is unnatural.
Life, modern life, breeds apathy, I think; freedom rejects such apathy but, often, it can leave the student self-obsessed, desperate to seek their own happiness above the good of their community. I, in fact, don’t really think of myself as belonging to a community – I’m hardly a writer, I’m essentially unemployable (though I’ve proven on these internships that I am willing to work exceedingly hard) and I don’t really fit in anywhere.
You see? This little post started as an opinion on Creative Writing and, suddenly, it’s all about me. Ah well, maybe I’d have turned out this way anyway, with or without a university education hanging over my head, and a degree dangling slackly from around my throat.