Do I Really Need A “Creative Writing” Qualification?


Prompted by a conversation with my writing friends last night, this morning, i spent some time Googling Creative Writing Degree & MA courses here in the UK.

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Back in 2012 i started the BA course with The Open College and although i enjoyed my first year, i didn’t continue onto the 2nd year, for 2 reasons:

  1. The 2nd year was poetry and i really didn’t want to learn how to write poetry and spend a whole year doing so.
  2. I was having to write what they told me to write not what i wanted to write.

So i quit and enrolled on the Comprehensive Creative Writing Course with The Writers Bureau. Within a couple of weeks i realised that this wasn’t the course for me (i didn’t want to write articles for magazines) as the course very much concentrates on “selling” your work. I wanted to write a novel, i wanted to write a bloody good novel.

Then i tried the Open University who’s MA i’d heard great things about. But, I’ve been banned! lol…because i’d enrolled on 2 courses with them before and not completed them (they see me as a bad risk and i would affect their stats as another fail). I can appeal it, and heres my dilemma…..can i be arsed?

The Faber & Faber course was ok, i learnt a lot. But i didn’t really learn how to improve my writing, and thats what i need *sighs*

But i guess the real question is…Do i really need a “writing” qualification? What benefit will it be to me? So why is everyone doing it? And why am i even considering it? lol. I know the best way to become a better writer is to just practice, but i feel that if i had guidance, someone to point out the things I’m doing wrong, i would learn a lot quicker and become the writer i want to be…does that make sense?

Hanif Kureishi thinks i’d be mad to enrol on another course lol

What do you think? Would be very interested to hear your views 🙂

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58 thoughts on “Do I Really Need A “Creative Writing” Qualification?

  1. I don’t think you do. I think what is needed is the will and imagination to write. Once the project is complete and it is edited and you feel ready then send to agents and see where that heads to.

    I am looking at this myself, with a project that will not be finished for at least a year. I have identified 30 agents and narrowed it down to around 6-8 that I am going to approach. If al 8 turn me down and they might, I will self publish.

    There are some writing courses available online that are free that you can dip into and out of as you see fit. Including one done by Open University.

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    • Thanks Julie,

      I am a long way off from even considering sending anything to an agent. Good luck with yours honey 🙂

      I guess i just want to learn. I want to know HOW to improve my writing, and having a “qualification”, to me, just shows you have reached a certain level, that you basically know what you’re doing lol.

      Im doing the free OU one online at the moment, enjoying it, but not sure its giving me what i need.

      xx

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      • Playing devil’s advocate here. You said:
        “Im doing the free OU one online at the moment, enjoying it, but not sure its giving me what i need.”

        What do you feel your are missing? and how do you know that?

        I am a long way off finishing and sending to an agent,but that is my plan for a book that is factual. That is quite different to actually writing something that is completely made up and holds everyone’s attention.That involves a degree of imagination and self belief.

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      • I feel that my writing is lacking a bit of “oomph” lol….i’d describe it as “simplistic” in the sense that i don’t know how to play with sentences, i don’t even know what an adjective is, i don’t know how to use words to the greatest effect, and don’t even talk to me about structure…i pull my hair out with that one! lol… I just want to write better Julie 🙂

        Good luck with your project honey xx

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  2. Have you looked at a site like scribophile? it seems quite good as a place for posting writing for critiques and reading critiques of other people’s writing – I must spend more time on there. A good way to improve your writing by learning from your own and others’ mistakes. They cover all sorts of writing, from novels through short stories to the dreaded poetry. I feel your pain, by the way – I too tried that comprehensive writing course and came to the same conclusion, and I’ve a feeling the OU wouldn’t want me either these days!

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      • I’m on there – haven’t used it much yet – on my to-do-list – but from what I’ve seen the critique does tend to be pretty thorough and useful. There are different groups within it, so you can get to know those within your group rather than site-wide if you wish, so I’d imagine it could be pretty social too.

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      • I did my degree with them, no problems, and a few more courses – then I did a maths course that I found was too tough and I really should have officially withdrawn but didn’t, and I did the short course on writing fiction, but my Dad died halfway through, and it was only a short course anyway. His funeral was the day before the second and final assignment, so I failed to submit.

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      • Ahhhhh, in that case, yeah, you might find next time you apply you’ve been banned lol…although, you have completed courses with them, whereas i never have lol

        xx

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  3. Qualifications are good as a starting point for someone looking to build a career. There is no way they make you a better writer. For that you need self-belief, the ability to learn from critique – from others and your own. Read the best writers out there in your chosen genre and analysis their work. Don’t copy them but learn from them. Plan your work carefully and FINISH your projects. You are your best critic so be your best friend also.
    Love Sue X

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve been asking myself the same question, literally just this morning. I wish I knew the answer! Like you I started a course but found it wasn’t right for me and quit after the first year, but I think sometimes courses do help in the sense of finding contacts and getting your writing read by others. I just don’t take instructions well when it comes to writing…

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    • Oh wow Claire, what a coincidence 🙂

      I don’t really mind instruction, but then i end up moaning that I’m not writing what i want to write lol

      Have you come to any conclusions?

      xx

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  5. Wouldn’t having a writing buddy or belonging to a writing group be better. They can cheer you along and hopefully give some constructive criticism but you can write what you want. Or is your problem like mine completing and editing things? Do you need the deadlines and focus of a course?

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  6. Perhaps a mentoring relationship with a more established writer or a good critiquing group (hard to find, I know, but worth searching) might help more if the focus is on improvement. Have you looked at the Womentoring initiative?
    http://womentoringproject.co.uk/

    It’s not a very long-term relationship, as all of these women are very busy, but you might gain more out of a few one-to-one conversations than out of several months of a more impersonal course.

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    • OOOOOOOO, thanks Marina 🙂

      Yeah, I’ve thought about mentoring, know a few people who are mentored by some pretty well known authors (and they pay top dollar for that privilege!) and would LOVE to go down that route…perhaps THAT is EXACTLY what i need!

      Will definitely check that out, thanks again honey xx

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  7. First off, you know you don’t need one, but the fact is you seem to be drawn to writing courses and it’s good to question why. As you know, I’m doing an MA with the MMU (distance learning, so very accessible) and I think it will be worth it for me as a writer for these reasons: you only study the kind of writing you want to do (I’m on the novel route but there are poetry and children’s writing routes too); you must complete an actual novel for your final project; there are sessions with agents and publishers and the whole course is very geared to the practicalities of getting published. You don’t need a qualification, Viks, but if you want to study make sure it’s a course that really gives you something back xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jo 🙂

      Do you mind me asking you WHY you decided to do the course?

      I guess i feel that having a writing “qualification” makes you seem more like a professional than an amateur.

      xx

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      • When I graduate I’ll be the first person in my immediate family to have a degree, so it was important to me on a personal level. Also I want to teach creative writing and this MA has the option to study a pedagogic route. Give me a call if you get chance and want to chat about it more xxx

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      • Good for you Jo 🙂

        Ive had a few people say to me that i’d be good as a writing coach, but, i’d need qualifications for that, thats for sure! 🙂

        Thanks honey…i think its all become a little clearer now lol

        xx

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  8. The second I saw the title of this post my first reaction was, “No. No you do not.” And I stand by that first reaction. You do not have to go to school and spend an arse-load of money to be taught creativity. In fact, in my opinion, you’d probably be better off not to.

    In this day and age we have a bit of a social plague that makes us believe that we have to have a college education and a fancy little certificate in order to be able to actually DO anything. It makes sense that we think this way because there are SO many careers out there that absolutely require years of study before you can even consider them. But writing (or artistry of any kind, really) is not one of those careers.

    Don’t get me wrong; sometimes a bit of education can definitely be a good thing. I’ve known plenty of writers who could really benefit from going back to school and learning basic grammar and sentence structure, and plenty more who really need a refresher on three-act structure and timing. There are lots of aspects of the writing process that can be taught, and lots of people who could absolutely be helped by such courses.

    But it’s my opinion that “creativity” is not one of those things. I honestly don’t believe that you can teach creativity. I genuinely believe that it is something that you have to learn on your own. You don’t have to be completely alone, of course. You can share your work on sites like Critique Circle and have people tell you what they think your strong points and weak points are. There is a wonderful community of writers on the internet, with a vast wealth of knowledge that they are (mostly) all too happy to share. I think you would do much better to look to them than to spend your precious time and money on a course that probably won’t even teach you what you were hoping to learn.

    But that’s just my two cents. ^_~

    Good luck with whatever you decide!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh what an excellent discussion! Thanks for raising the issue Vikki 🙂 Like you I wonder about enrolling in courses; actually I dream about doing an MA in Creative Writing. But it would have to be the ‘right’ one for me. The MMU mentioned by Joanne sounds good; so does the OU (only course I’ve done with them is the current freebie on Start Writing Ficiton, which I’m enjoying and has me thinking of a longer course. Still my problem is finances – can’t afford it at the moment, so for the time being I’ll keep dreaming and learning via my own DIY MA. Maybe we should all pool resources and devise a course of sorts for ourselves? BTW I was very interested to read your thoughts on the Comprehensive Writing Course as you came to the same conclusion as myself!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Edith 🙂

      Do you mind me asking WHY you dream about doing an MA?

      Ha ha ha, well thats 3 of us here that didn’t get much from the Comprehensive Writing Course, just goes to show you doesn’t it 🙂

      I think its because I’m doing that OU freebie at the moment that I’m wondering what i should do next lol

      xx

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      • Well for one thing I seem to do a whole lot more writing if I am writing to fulfil an assignment. Plus following someone else’s prompts tends to make me write about things I might otherwise ignore. Also the feedback would be great, or at least I think it would, though it could be devastating too! Overall I think it’s the imposed discipline a course would place on me, and the excuse that I HAVE to complete my ‘homework’ so would you mind cooking your own dinner please? 🙂
        The ultimate reason though, is a vague and wistful feeling that this will somehow envelop my life with a sense of meaningful occupation and encourage me to focus on one endeavour instead of the many interests I keep dipping in and out of. I envy those who are committed to a vision they hold true to!

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  10. I don’t think you need to have a writing qualification. But I do think a combination of writing, reading and instruction is a good thing. There’s no substitute for writing though, so I’d say the writing part is the most important one of those things. I’m doing a Masters of Writing because I’m a study freak. I love learning about things I love and I’ve found the course really helpful. But what the course does is:get you writing, reading and listening to instruction. I love it!

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    • Thanks honey 🙂

      Now your course sounds great! Who is that with?

      I do enjoy learning, but i don’t want to make the mistake of signing up to something (again!) and not enjoying it lol

      xx

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      • It’s a masters of writing and literature at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. I’m doing it online and international students can do it too. I’m majoring in professional writing with a lot of literary subjects as well. I’m not much of a literary writer but I think there are good skills to learn that can be used for all writing.

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  11. Can you just audit courses? I’m not sure I see the point of a degree. But the practice bit is right. Only way to be a better writer is to write. Would a critique group help?

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    • Hi CC 🙂

      Yeah, im a member of a critique group, but we only submit if and when we want to, and usually, I’m terrible at submitting anything lol

      Thats very true, but, I’ve come to the conclusion that without instruction i just write a lot of bad stuff lol 😉

      Thanks honey xx

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  12. I don’t think anyone needs a qualification to write. The education which leads to the qualification might be valuable though – but only if it deals with the area you want to learn about. A lot seem too broad on scope. Few of us want to write short stories and poems and plays and novels and articles and non fiction books and interviews and memoirs.

    Perhaps an evening class or a writing group where you can get feedback would be more use to you than another academic course?

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    • Thanks Patsy, thats exactly what I’m thinking! Im not sure i really care about getting the actual qualification (although it does look good in your cover letter when you come to submitting), i think its the education i need, the techy stuff…sentence structure, grammar etc. Ive got books coming out of my ears, but i don’t have the…whats the word…determination? No…energy? I dunno, i don’t have whatever it is i need to sit down at the desk and study, off my own back, on my own, if that makes sense?

      Yeah, im a member of 2 writing groups, and they are great….but, we don’t go into huge depth with the critiques.

      xx

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  13. Vikki, you can skip to the novel writing part of the Writer’s Bureau course, I’m sure. Just email your tutor and ask. It’s open-ended so it won’t be too late. It’s a good way of getting feedback. I still want to write a novel, not exclusively short stories, but stories are a good way of honing your skills and, obviously, if you sell some it’s an indication of whether you’re going in the right direction. I think you could keep doing courses til the cows come home and keep spending money doing it – and maybe it could end up being a form of procrastination. A writing group could be good – although remember the advice and comments would be subjective/personal preference. I think you should just set aside a couple of years to plough through a novel, send it to trusted, impartial people to read, and take their comments on the chin for the next draft. Get your hands dirty and throw yourself in! I empathise with your need to have more immediate feedback, but I think it can be demoralising sometimes. Whack it out! Go for it!

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    • Ha ha ha, exactly Linda! I sent out 17 short stories last year and didn’t sell one, so what does THAT say? lol

      Thanks honey, I’ve loved the feedback I’ve received on all my work from my writing groups AND Faber, but no one has really told me how to make it better you know 😉

      xx

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  14. You would probably be better focusing on workshops and writing groups if you feel you need more than DIY. Distance or Bricks and Mortar learning is not for everyone. Sometimes it’s just too restrictive to creativity and you spend your time jumping through other peoples hoops. I spent a lot of money on a course with Open College of the Arts for Textiles. I was told I’d need no special equipment etc to do the course and yet after submitting the first assignment I had great feed back but was told to suggest trying various extra techniques that required a lot of extra materials and expense. I quickly came to the conclusion I was basically teaching myself with others suggestions and that was it. I didn’t finish the course and would have been better off spending the money on hands on work shops and great how to books.

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  15. Hi, as someone who’s done both of the OU’s undergraduate creative writing courses I thought I’d weigh in. If you’re more interested in the learning than the qualification then you can buy the books for both courses on Amazon; they are publicly available. OK you don’t get the tutor feedback and interaction with other students but you can essentially have access to the course materials for both courses. Personally I got more out of the advanced course. Unless you need to have a degree, it’s a cheaper option!

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  16. During my undergrad, I started writing in a big way. I got my first professional sale, had won a few local contests, and I was beginning to make a bit of a name for myself. Then, two of my friends graduated, one went on to techers’ college, and the other went on to do her MA in English Literature. I got the ridiculous idea in my head that I needed a graduate degree to say I was a ‘real’ writer. WORST. MISTAKE. EVAR. While I learned quite a bit and earned the right to put the initials MA behind my name, I also suffered a severe wound to my creative self. It took me years afterward to get back on track. I had the desire to write in me the whole time, but I couldn’t sit down without terrible self-doubt setting in.
    I’ve learned more by going to conferences and conventions (I write fantasy and speculative fiction, so the convention vibe is fab), workshops, and … drum roll please, from following wonderful writer friends online. Continue writing. Continue reading. Invest in reasonable events like workshops that will likely offer you better vlue for the money than a degree will. Even more reasonable, read craft writing books by authors you respect and see if their methods fit with your process.
    And that’s about it.
    As with any advice, you’re free to take it or leave it. That’s the hardest lesson to learn: not everything every supposed ‘expert’ has to tell you have value for you. You have to learn how to say, you’re full of shite! to those who try to tell you you’re doing things wrong.
    Break a pencil!

    Like

    • Wow, thanks Melanie 🙂

      Your story is very similar to one of my friends, for her, doing her MA nearly proved fatal to her writing (she was writing SciFi and everyone else on the course was writing Literary), so I’m very aware that finding the RIGHT course, for me, is very important if i decide to do it.

      Thanks honey, you’ve given me lots to think about 🙂

      xx

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  17. I don’t think a degree is necessary. It seems the more I read about writing…writing is the best thing you can do and so much of the rest can be picked up on. Writing to get published seems so fickle based on the personal opinions of those reading it that I don’t see where a degree or a course seems to make a difference. If you see a course you want to take and are drawn to it, think it will benefit you in some way, then I say go for it, but at the same time don’t let it be a delay to writing. I’m guilty of this by doing more reading about writing than I do actual writing some times.

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  18. Great topic here, Vikki, it’s been interesting to read through all the comments.

    I, too, started the Writer Bureau Comprehensive Course and found it lacking. I wasn’t interested in magazine articles either, and when I shifted to the fiction part of it I just lost all heart to do it.

    I am currently doing the first Creative Writing course with the OU, and I’ve wondered more than once as I’m going along why I was doing it. I have enjoyed it for the most part, and it has shown me particular areas that I need to work on in my writing which can only be a good thing. I agree with other commentors that you can’t really teach creativity or imagination and the drive and desire for storytelling, but you can learn something about structure and how to focus that creativity into something to be enjoyed.
    I’m working towards an English degree overall, with a couple of creative writing components thrown in, so I’m mixing it up a bit in that respect. I am considering an MA in Creative Writing though through the UEA, which is supposed to be an excellent course. I’m a few years off that yet though so have plenty of time to think about it.

    Like the others say, you really need to think about why you want to do a course, and what you want to get out of it. If you can’t find one that suits, there are plenty of other options to pursue.

    Thanks for this thread, it really has made me think about what I’m doing, where I’m going and what I want to achieve. I’ve moved forward another step today 🙂

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    • Oh excellent honey! Its great to hear that you’re focussed and know what you want, something that I’m not at the moment lol.

      You’re very welcome…Good luck! Sounds like you’ve found whats right for you 🙂

      xx

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  19. I just want to add a couple of things, Vikki. I agree that you don’t need a degree; a degree will not sell your story. A dear friend of mine has an MA in creative writing from a prestigious school here and he struggles so much with sitting down to write fiction. Unfortunately, they don’t give classes in motivation or focus. 🙂

    Do you have fellowships in the UK? It sounds like that would be perfect for your needs. There are many here in the states. You have to apply, but if you get accepted by one (many writers do multiple fellowships) typically you get lodgings and a stipend on which to live while you’re in the fellowship. You have a working space and you’re among fellow writers. Some fellowships are low-contact so you can be at home the majority of the time.

    About poetry (I can’t believe I’m going to defend poetry!): Typically, I have to be dragged over nails and broken glass and other pointy objects to think about poetry. But years ago I had a creative writing teacher suggest that I take her poetry class; she told me it would improve my prose. I was quite reluctant, but I did it. I figured it wouldn’t be too torturous – it was only a six-week summer class. I wrote a few poems, one of which I’m quite proud. It definitely made me think more about language. It also helped my brain by giving it a different way to think about composing sentences. So it turned out she was absolutely right – writing poetry DID improve my prose. I’m so glad I took the class.

    Some will probably say the same about short stories, but I don’t believe them! 😉 ha ha

    I still have to be dragged over sharp objects to think about poetry, but now I know I’ll be rewarded when I do. I highly suggest all fiction writers take at least a brief course in poetry. You won’t regret it.

    Sara from NanoKent

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    • Thanks for stopping by Sara 🙂

      We do have fellowships, but they tend to be published writers that get the opportunity to become one (from what I’ve heard) 😦

      I know what you’re saying about Poetry Sara, and i did have to write 2 poems on the first part of the course….but a whole year JUST on poetry terrified me lol

      xx

      Like

  20. Pingback: The Creative Writing Coursebook | The View Outside

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