Skip to Content

Boom in creative writing courses

19 April 2004

Just like the States (see News Review 22 July 2002) the UK is going through a huge and sudden growth in courses in creative writing. There's an unending demand for writing courses. In just twelve years the number of universities offering postgraduate degree courses in creative writing has increased from eight to 85.

But the interest in writing goes much further than that. In 2003 an estimated 110,000 people enrolled on some kind of writing course. There are a total of around 11,000 short-term and evening classes relating to the subject, giving a fantastic geographical spread of courses and opportunities to find exactly the right course. Many of them are based at former polytechnics and they see writing as a craft that can be developed through learning and practice.

Debbie Taylor of MslexiaStylish and lively site for quarterly UK literary magazine read by 12,000 'committed' women writers. Good range of quality writing, information and advice with news, reviews, competitions and interviews, all presented in a friendly fashion. Praised by Helen Dunmore as 'astute, invigorating and above all an excellent read.' magazine has recently conducted a study of creative writing courses. She believes that her own work has been helped by such courses, and that writers really can benefit from studying creative writing.

Not everyone would agree, and there is a view that creative writing courses turn out writers who write in much same way, and that they stifle originality. The author William Boyd says; 'My feeling is that writing can't be taught, but you can learn about the business. I think it's more pragmatic than creative. You can learn the tricks of the trade, but I have a feeling that writers are born and not made.'

Perhaps this is true, although many writers would not agree. But when it is so difficult to get published, aspiring writers feel they need all the help they can get. Understanding the business side of writing may well be a constructive approach and many writers enjoy honing their writing skills. It's just a pity that this is all happening at a time when, in spite of the increasing number of book being published, it's harder than ever to make sure that yours is one of them.