Learning to Write

People sometimes say that creative writing can’t be taught. I don’t agree. Sure, you can’t create talent from nothing, but I do believe that if someone has the smallest spark of talent it can be moulded into something more polished.

Back in the early 2000s I studied creative writing at the Cumbria Institute of the Arts in Carlisle. It was a last-minute switch from my plan to study veterinary nursing, a move which concerned some of my friends who were embarking on more vocational courses. But I knew that I wanted to be a writer and that I just had to give myself every possible chance at making it.

I’m so glad that I did. When I started at college it was my first time sitting in a room with people who wanted the same thing as me. Even if the teaching hadn’t been any good, just mixing with likeminded aspiring writers would have been useful in itself. You can learn so much by reading other people’s work and having them critique your own. It never stops being daunting, having some read your words with a critical eye, simply because writing is such a personal thing, but it never stops being rewarding either.

Luckily, the teaching was excellent too. Our lecturer was an enthusiastic whirlwind of a writer, one of the best loved teachers at the college and a pivotal figure in Carlisle’s cultural scene. He died last year and I’m only one amongst a huge amount of people who miss him terribly. As I work on the sequel to Running in Circles, I’m trying to keep his advice in mind, and it still helps even though he’s not here to give it in person.

Another benefit of taking a creative writing course is that it gave me time and space to work on my writing which would otherwise have been difficult to find. It gave me the courage to see my work as valid, and not just an indulgent hobby like I sometimes feared it was. The course also steered me towards attending spoken word and poetry nights, submitting to magazines and entering competitions. It made my dream of becoming a writer seem real but it also opened my eyes to all of the hurdles facing an aspiring writer; there is no guarantee of success, it is hard to make money even if you are published and the pressures of life can get in the way. But I would definitely advise anyone considering a creative writing course to go for it if they really have a passion for the subject. The world always needs more story tellers.

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