Why Creative Writing is the most underrated degree
We’re not all unemployable hippies
English Literature with Creative Writing is a degree that you should know about. Yes, Creative Writing. Yes, that means a part of our degree will be to write short stories and poetry. No, our poetry doesn’t consist of ‘there once was a man from nantucket’.
‘Anyone can write a poem or a story’
This unfortunately is true, everyone does have the ability to bang a few words together and, hey presto, call it a piece of creative writing. However, it doesn’t make it a good piece of creative writing. Contrary to popular belief, a poem is slightly more than picking a few rhyming words and slapping a title on it.
Although I am always in awe of those who can sit in seven hour long labs while I huff and puff about my two hour lecture, allow me to reassure you reading three books a week is no picnic in the park. Nor is putting yourself out there every week to produce a piece of prose or poetry to then be critiqued by peers.
‘Writing is just your hobby’
Of course writing is a hobby, something I do for enjoyment in my free time. I’m sure for any successful author or poet, writing would also have started as a hobby. Admittedly, I didn’t get quite as much confetti thrown at me when announcing my degree in comparison to the girl down the road who is off to study Medicine and save lives. However, I was still quite content in the idea I was going to do a degree I had loved the idea of from a young age, and it was no easy feat to get accepted onto the course either – 15 places for over 150 applicants (not to brag).
It actually teaches invaluable life skills
When we leave university, we don’t just leave with (hopefully) a degree, but with a suitcase full of life lessons and experiences we’ve gained over the years. I spoke to Vona Groake, an Irish poet and one of the Creative Writing tutors who said, “Creative Writing degrees concentrate on how to use language in a perceptive, careful and effective way”.
Although not every single creative writing student will end up in the world of writing, it teaches us skills that we will need in in the future. It might even get us a job, contrary to common belief. Vona also mentions, “Through workshops, they’ll have acquired skills of offering and receiving public criticism in a constructive and helpful way”.
Trust me, sitting in a class and hearing people critique your work and trying to keep a nice, calm, straight face has been something close to anger management class and definitely has prepared me for my future.
‘No Gran, I don’t want to be a teacher’
One of the main misconceptions of doing this degree is that we all want to be teachers. Yes, this is a viable option. But there are teachers for every subject out there, so when we come across a Physics student why is the assumption not there that they want to teach? Not all of us sit there battling our way through yet another Shakespeare play to gain the role of teaching the alphabet. Emma Watson, Stephen Fry, Martin Scorsese and Hugh Grant, all successful individuals who all graduated with an English degree. So to you English Literature students, don’t worry, its urban myth that we’re entirely screwed.
If you love it, then study it
This is the most important thing: you enjoy it, so do it. Although we aren’t equipped with a calculator and notes full of equations, we are armed with a highlighter and a good book. Although the idea that we lounge in coffee shops reading Proust, nattering in our book clubs and organising our bookshelves in alphabetical order seems idyllic, we know that life isn’t the typical walk in the park for the English Literature student. So, next time someone is hiding a smirk when you say you’re studying Creative Writing, remember that as your best selling novel hits the Waterstone’s book shelves and they still live with their parents, that actually we’re not doing so badly.