What is the true value of creative writing courses?

Earlier this month, The Independent’s Arts Correspondent, Arifa Akbar wrote a piece headlined ‘Why always write in a room of one’s own?’ which began by asking the question:

“Are writers born or do they emerge after a year of being ‘workshopped’ on a creative writing course?”

Anita Desai, Man Booker Prize winner, reignited the age-old debate at Wasifiri’s 25th Birthday celebrations where she confessed that ‘creative writing courses are awful’ and ‘distract the writer from finding their own voice.’

You can read the piece in its entirety by clicking here

What was interesting was the wonderful, thought provoking discussion which emerged on my Facebook page as a result of this, (I hope the said authors have no objections of it being republished). I felt it was only right to give all writers part of the network a proper forum to express their opinions and add to this, if they so wish. I’ve pasted in the start of the discussion and hope you will share your thoughts too.

Sufiya Ahmed

uh no. i deliver CW courses in schools.
courses can teach you technique but not imagination.
you are either creative or not.
Pravin Jeyaraj

Whether writers are born or made is question for debate but I would say that creative writing courses (in general) do have a number of benefits. Firstly, it provides a structure and deadlines to drive you forward, which are otherwise not as easy to maintain. Secondly, writers come from all walks of life and many do not know about the difference Read morebetween different styles of poetry, short stories, etc. Creative writing courses providing a technical understanding that broadens the limits that lack of knowledge can have on imagination. Finally, it’s motivating just to meet with other creative writers at various stages of progress.
Zed Rahman

I think creative writing classes are a brilliant way to understand if you can make it as a writer. Or at least take it up as a hobby. A good story teller needs to understand syntax and structure and a good teacher can help you comprehend the guidelines. As Pravin mentioned, it also exposes you to different people from different backgrounds thus Read moreallowing you a better insight in how others approach the same goal. You need to channel out to different genres to feel connected to the one you feel most comfortable with.

The dividing line between taking creative writing classes and getting published, however, is imagination. You can be technically brilliant in your delivery and tell a story well but if it doesn’t ignite the reader, whether good or bad, then you question the purpose of why you’re writing. If you don’t have the creative spirit, you’ll never be able to stand out and in art – you need to be distinguished in order to be respected. In the past, art had a fondness for religion, history, and love – today, art has a liking for money. But that’s another story.

I have always taken the Greek structure as my main medium though the essence of a good story is focusing on a unique point about humanity and making it relate to the most humblest of beings. It is difficult to be original since so much has been written before but that should act as a challenge to work harder to make it work.

Pravin Jeyaraj

I would disagree with Rahman re his statement that “the dividing line between creative writing classes and getting published…is imagination”. Imagination is just the first step to getting published, but is nowhere near the last. You still have to put your ideas down on paper in a coherent form. A creative writing class will help with this step, although it is not essential. But just to say that imagination is all you need is misleading.

Pravin – the whole writing process is very elongated. We’re discussing the purpose of a CW course and the benefits of what it could lead. Getting published is a different topic entirely. And personally, if you want to get a book out – you can. You can self publish. People in the past have obtained loans or an investor. It really isnRead more’t that difficult anymore. There are even books on how to publish books by yourself, though I do have doubts in the quality of taking this approach.

Even the publishing houses have regurgitated a great deal of nonsense in the past few decades because they appeal to certain markets. I question whether you even require talent to get publish. What is lacking is imagination. That is something you cannot buy with money and the next step after you have honed your writing skills.

And personally a writer is defined by his imagination, not by his publishing house.

Pravin Jeyaraj

imagination is important but a writer is someone who writes, not purely someone who imagines.