Almost three years ago I began my degree, a part time course to fit in around my work. I’m studying English Literature because it is my passion, and it’s a combined course that included Creative Writing. With just one assignment left for the year I am three years down with three years left. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
Writer’s block is real
Yep. It’s a real and recognised thing, at least in the academic world. It was a real relief to find this out. Do you ever wonder if claiming ‘writer’s block’ makes you a fraud, if it’s actually just procrastination or laziness? Well…maybe sometimes. But more often than not, that block you feel is a real stand still of your creative brain, and it can feel pretty much impossible to form a coherent sentence on paper. Everybody gets it, you’re not alone.
When you’re stuck ‘free write’
As well as claiming that Writer’s Block is real, studying Creative Writing gave me some useful methods to combat it. My favourite is ‘free writing’, the art of starting with a singular word or idea and just writing. If you do it properly, the result will be a garbled mess that slips and slides from one thought to another. And that’s okay. The purpose of the exercise is to get your brain’s creative juices flowing again, without the pressure of forming anything that makes sense or is great to read. Hopefully, you’ll set your brain into writing mind and find it easier to get back to your project.
Feedback is crucial
Feedback is, sometimes, horrible. No-one likes their mistakes pointed out, or their weaknesses highlighted. But it’s crucial because without it, how would we learn? Whether you gain feedback from a tutor, teacher, critique partner, beta reader, editor or friend you will learn so much. Don’t take criticism to heart, rather use it to progress and improve.
It’s good to try something new
Other than a brief stint of poetry as a teen, I’ve always been a novel writer. My story ideas develop into novel-length stories, and I’d never honed the skill of telling a great story in a smaller amount of words. However, studying Creative Writing forced me to try life-writing, poetry and short story writing, taking me so far out of my comfort zone. But by doing so I learned a lot, and the things I learned will benefit my novel writing.
Always keep a writing journal
Most writers keep notebooks, and particularly ones to keep ideas about a specific project or story. But it’s also a great idea to keep a generic notebook for the random ideas that come to you. Everything from descriptions of an interesting person you saw, or a strong feeling of emotion you were overcome by or the beauty of your view on a summer’s walk. Jot all these down, even if they aren’t relevant to anything you’re working on. You never know when you might need it.
You don’t need a degree to write
Yep. It’s true. You don’t need anything but a pen, some paper and an imagination. I am loving my studies, and my Literature degree means a lot to me. But it is in no way a required qualification to become published. And likewise, many people with the degree will never be published. There are many ways you can learn the craft of writing, and the most important one is simply to write. Practice, practice, practice by writing as often as you can.
Has anyone else studied creative writing? Or perhaps you’ve a degree in another subject? Has it benefited your writing? Share your thoughts below,