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What price creative writing courses?

4 March 2013

Are creative writing courses just an expensive con, or do they really help writers with their writing and subsequent careers as writers? Many writers have spent a lot of money on courses, sometimes expensive one year Creative Writing MAs, but have these done anything more than make money for the organisations running the courses? It's hard to be sure, because this is something no-one wants to talk about and of course some writers do benefit and find a publisher for their work.

Of course writing a lot, playing close attention to your writing and having it the subject of professional scrutiny must improve it, but there's also the implication that a creative writing course will help you get your work published. In actual fact, although courses may well improve your writing, the boom in creative writing courses has happened at a time when it has gradually become more and more difficult to find a publisher.

So is shelling out for a creative writing course the triumph of optimism over experience? Or does a course of this kind help you in other ways? Surely it improves your writing in general, a not inconsiderable advantage when most jobs require the ability to write?

Many writers support themselves through teaching creative writing, but it this just the not-published lecturing the hoping-to-be-published on how to go about it? And how many writers who have attended these courses have gone on to realise their dream of publication?

Carole Blake of agency Blake Friedmann says: "While I'm sure that some of the many available writing courses now on offer are worth the time and their fees, I do worry that so many people and companies are looking for ways to profit from the never-ending queues of unpublished writers wanting to be published. It's an ever-hopeful, never-diminishing number, with few ever questioning their own talent, so they are vulnerable, and ripe for exploitation. Lack of expertise in the topic they are teaching does not seem to be a barrier for the tutors. For example, surely someone teaching a course on how to get published should at least be published themselves?'