I am surprised at how much I enjoy studying creative writing as an undergraduate. Now granted, I am just minoring in it- my major is “Modern History.” Yet I look forward to my creative writing workshops and classes- some of which are online- because I find them valuable.
Whenever I search for advice about studying creative writing, a vast majority regards to American masters programs, often known as the “MFA.” The Western world has experienced a resurgence of creative writing programs these past decades. I remember reading once that Boston University received well over six hundred applicants for about ten places. Brutal, right? Because of that, any masters program in creative writing is going to garner interest and criticism. Therefore, I can say that Masters in Creative Writing are quite controversial by their nature.
You know what isn’t? Studying creative writing as an undergraduate. In this article, I’m going to outline what makes studying writing as an undergraduate so worthwhile.
You Can Enjoy Creative Writing Classes (Without Majoring In It!)
This doesn’t apply to all countries. I know in the United Kingdom, they get very specific about what you study. You can’t just pick two random majors at will. Yet you can in most Australian universities, as well as places in the United States, Canada, New Zealand and various other countries. You see- there is a beautiful thing in a Bachelor of Arts called electives– meaning that as long as you meet the requirements, you can enrol in the unit!
Perhaps you are studying finance, and would like to study creating writing. You can! Enrol in the units that interest you. I have no intention to major in creative writing, yet that’s not stopping me from enjoying the English department at my university.
So whenever someone advises you to not study creative writing because of poor job prospects, know that they are missing the point of electives. Hell, only major in creative writing if:
a) You are combining it with something else (doube majors are awesome!)
b) You have a concrete career plan that involves creative writing, and are willing to get work experience (i.e you want to be a copywriter or a professional editor)
That being said, a huge benefit to a creative writing major as opposed to electives is exposure to different types of writing. You’ll also have more time to dedicate to your craft. Either way, the choice is yours!
Workshops & Feedback
Every writer should be in a pattern of workshopping their prose and getting feedback. Through beta-readers, your writing style becomes stronger and you develop a stronger eye for errors. When you study creative writing, you become aware of the workshop format, and you receive valuable feedback for your work.
I’ve gotten eye-opening feedback and advice from fellow students, who don’t notice things that others do. What’s also helped is reading the work of my fellow peers. I notice their strengths and flaws, and it makes me a more mindful writer and reader.
After you have finished your creative writing classes or units, you can join a writer’s group online or offline. You don’t necessarily need prior education to join them, but I find that sometimes undergraduate can be a more constructive and supportive environment than a writer’s group online. Because of that, I’ve found my creative writing classes to be worthwhile.
Awesome Fellow Students
I’m inspired by my fellow creative writing students. Not only are they courageous, but are also willing to take risks and be experimental. A problem people have with undergraduate creative writing classes is that you don’t write to a publishable standard. And I get that! But that’s also a good thing. That means the tutors won’t be expecting the next Man Booker Prize winner out of you. Instead, your tutor will expect you to be critical, creative and authentic to yourself. Because of that, I much prefer the sound of undergraduate creative writing programs!
By not having a mountain of pressure on you that an MFA program would have- you can make errors. You can be whoever you want to be in your writing classes. Without making a huge generalisation, I think undergraduate creative writing programs are more open to genre. In fact, at my university- there is even a unit dedicated to writing popular fiction! That is pretty cool. My fellow students are very kind and never nasty.
If I wasn’t studying in suburban Sydney as an undergraduate, and instead I was at a fancy MFA program in New York City- could I really say the same? Not once, in my time studying creative writing, have I felt another student was jealous or spiteful. That’s amazing.
A New World of Writing Styles Will Open Up To You
Undergraduate creative writing courses attract a diverse range of students. From epic fantasy to ecology poetry- a creative writing course contains a range of personalities. This is because when you are workshopping, you are exposed to alot of writing styles. It’s certainly eye-opening and a valuable learning experience. Surrounding myself with enthusiastic students was the best thing for my writing. I didn’t think I could write or critique comedic poetry- but now I can!
It’s Part Of The Journey
Taking a few creative writing subjects will not get you published, and neither would getting a doctorate in writing. So, what’s the point? Well… it’s enjoyable and I get alot out of it. It also helped me gain the confidence to enter competitions and work with beta readers online. I also feel its improved my writing and reading habits.
See, creative writing classes is part of the journey. I plan to write for decades, and to constantly improve. A degree takes 3 years in Australia. That’s nothing compared to the development I will get outside of university. I’m taking creative writing classes because they challenge me and give a fresh and unique perspective. For a while, I was struggling with my writing- and I needed help. Creative writing classes put me on the right track to solve my problem, as well as fast-track my development as a writer.
What About The People Who Can’t Study Creative Writing?
Not everyone can study a single creative writing unit. Perhaps you are doing a completely different degree, at a university that doesn’t allow electives, or it’s just not feasible. That’s okay! Here’s where it pays to have initative. Research good creative writing groups in your local area or online. You could also join a club or society at university for writing!
Again, you don’t need a creative writing degree to be a published writer! However, it helps to have a good practice. Look up creative writing prompts and ideas, research genres and most importantly- be brave! Take risks, experiment, push the envelope and have fun!
Don’t let your education circumstances determine your entire life as a writer. Don’t.
To conclude this blog post, I hope I outlined why I like studying creative writing as an undergradute. It’s far less fussy than a Masters degree, yet is rigorous enough to feel worthwhile. Adding onto that, I could rave about my peers all day!
After I finish my undergraduate course, I plan to work and travel more. I think it’s important to have a strong sense of the ‘real world’ as a writer. Whilst I do that, I’ll be participating more in beta groups and entering competitions. As my writing improves, so will my confidence in publishing a full length novel.
Personally? I can’t wait.
What are your thoughts on undergraduate creative writing programs? Any experiences? Comment below, I’d love to read your thoughts!