Over the last few years, ever since the rise in popularity of creative writing degrees, there has been a lot of debate over how much they actually benefit the writer.
It’s rare for a writer to emerge from their course, perfectly polished, with a manuscript ready to be snapped up by a big name publishing house. Sure, it does happen, but most students won’t be fortunate enough to enjoy the experience of being the next big thing.
So do we expect too much from our creative writing degrees?
Here are a few common expectations that might not be fulfilled by your course.
My talent will be validated
I challenge anyone starting a writing course to honestly say that, on some level, they don’t long to be the class superstar. But no matter how good your writing is, chances are you won’t receive the universal adoration you may have been hoping for.
Of course, this is a good thing. By pointing out the weaker aspects of your work, the course tutors are providing you with the tools you need to improve. You won’t grow as a writer until you can objectively assess your own work, pick it apart and make it better.
A saying I’ve been coming across a lot online recently – comparison is the thief of joy – also applies. You may not be the class hotshot, but there will be one. That one person who writes the quirky, poetic stories that the teachers gush over and you will envy fiercely. You will read their work and hiss inwardly, “What’s so great about it? My story/poem/script is just as good as theirs.”
Maybe they’ve been blessed with raw talent. But, chances are, they’ve spent a long time practicing their craft. Don’t compare yourself to them because you will only end up bitter and disheartened. Instead, take the opportunity to read their work and understand what makes it good; use that knowledge to enhance your own work.
Who knows, maybe there’s another person in the group who wishes they could draft dialogue as witty and realistic as yours, or envies your vast thesaurus-like vocabulary.
I’m guaranteed to finish my novel
Having a solid block of time to dedicate to writing is a luxury that a degree can provide. But degree courses are structured into modules that cover different subjects so you may not be able to work solely on one project. If you’re writing a novel, it could suffer from being forced to fit the requirements of your course.
Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from finishing that manuscript on your own time, but you will have the pressure of assignments and dissertations to write too.
And if you do manage to finish your first draft, there will still be a long road of rewrites and edits ahead of you.
I’ll be able to secure an agent or a publisher who will offer me a great book deal
Most writing degrees will be taught by authors and poets and may even feature guest lectures from publishing industry professionals. You might get chance to network but they aren’t going to read work from every student on the course in the hope of finding the next great author.
So don’t undertake a degree because you think it will guarantee you a book deal. It won’t.
My tutors will share their contacts with me
You might get lucky and secure a talented tutor who believes you show promise. They might give you additional feedback on your work but they’re unlikely to introduce you to their agent or take you to a meeting with their publisher. They have their own writing career to focus on and that will always take precedence.
If you want to be published, you’ve got to put the work in yourself; no one can do it for you.
Sure, you might be lucky enough to be taught by a famous writer, but they will have a lot of students to consider, not only you. On writing degrees, one-to-one time can be limited, so you won’t get a lot of opportunity to impress that successful author and make them notice you.
A writing degree can be a fantastic experience, but it’s no guarantee of success. Don’t go into your course expecting the world because you’ll only end up disappointed.
Use the opportunity to make new writer friends, get inspired, ask your tutors as many questions as you can and write, just write.