Letter Review believes that creative writing courses are absolutely worthwhile. It’s best to go into them understanding the types of things you will learn, and how a creative writing qualification can be turned into career opportunities! Authors, playwrights, and screenwriters can all benefit! 

Workshops

Lots of creative writing courses are designed around the idea of the workshop. This is typically where you will present a short story or poem, or scene to your teacher and your peers, and then you receive feedback.

I’ve taught lots of these workshops, and think that they are a really excellent teaching tool if done right.

First of all I let the students know that feedback is like a vegemite, or marmite, sandwich. A marmite sandwich is delicious because the bread is soft and yummy, and the marmite is tangy and strong tasting.

This is how feedback should be. The difficult criticisms should come in between two lovely soft pieces of praise.

Students should come away from workshops feeling encouraged. 

Critical Reading and Essays

Lots of creative writing courses will have an essay or critical component. This is a fantastic opportunity to read the work of celebrated authors, and to analyse the work in a critical way, that draws on literary theory. 

A well designed course can be wide ranging and also go into great depth. Breadth and Depth! So you might be able to take a ‘history of the novel’ course. I’d like to take one of those now!

Or a ‘history of tragedy, from Greece to contemporary drama.’ Yum.

Longer Writing Assessments

If you’re super lucky / ready to take it on, some courses, like masters and PhDs may ask you to write an entire novel, or an entire play or screenplay.

This can be daunting, but taking the time out in your life to achieve a creative milestone like this can lay the groundwork for later success, and even help you to carve out a whole new future for yourself!

The supervision you receive while writing this project can also be hugely beneficial. Try to find a supervisor or course that is taught by a person who has created and sold professional works in the area you are studying.

Even better, find a teacher whose work you actually like! Gasp! 

Funding While Writing

Some courses, typically PhDs, may come with a stipend, or scholarship that will help you to pay the bills. I received an RTP scholarship which comes with enough money to pay extremely modest rent each year.

Still, it’s very much appreciated, and has given me the space to work on my historical novel for the last two years! 

Look out for courses that come with funding! 

Types of Creative Writing Courses

High School writing courses can be simple but are usually good at introducing the writer to concepts like show, don’t tell.

Also, they can be quite complex and allow the student to write at the highest levels by getting out of the student’s way. Definitely worth looking out for if you or your kid is at school. 

Undergraduate creative writing courses can be a really wonderful change to experience the greater academic freedom that occurs in the university setting. Where difficult topics can usually be discussed openly, and boundaries can be pushed!

Usually you have the option of just enjoying studying creative writing as a minor, or taking it as a major with an intention to graduate with a degree in creative writing or go onto to higher levels of study. 

Masters / PhD level courses usually come with a research requirement, such as a dissertation (long essay) as well as a creative component. This is because these are research degrees – and their attainment signifies that the attainer is a qualified researcher, and can create new and valuable knowledge.

They often come with funding scholarships, and can allow the writer take on longer projects, that occur over several years. Worth investigating for sure! 

Writing Society / Drop in Classes are great for people who work or who otherwise don’t have vast amounts of time to dedicate to creative study. Writing societies can be wonderful, especially when they are government funded, as they often attract high level teachers and communities of like minded people who can become friends and mentors.

Short courses also allow you to target specific areas of study that you feel you are deficient in, like writing dialogue for instance! 

At the end of the day Letter Review believes that if you are determined to make the most of any reputable writing course, and take responsibility for your own learning and progress, then you are likely to get a large amount out of the time you put aside to study! 

Creative Writing Study isn’t for Eveyone

Study isn’t for everyone of course, and we also believe that every great work of literature requires all the information you need to create a great work of literature.

Instead of studying a formal course, trying picking up you favourite piece of writing and reading it cover to cover ten times, taking notes about exactly what you think is going on at every moment.

Ask yourself, ‘what is the writer doing in this moment, and why do I like this so much?’ Do this for long enough and you’ll be teaching your own creative writing classes in no time! Autodidacticism ftw! 


Ol Adams

Letter Review is currently edited by Ol Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Ol Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. Ol has had novels long listed for major awards such as the KYDUMA, has received government funding to produce plays from Create NSW and screenplays from Screen NSW, and has performed / produced professional work at major theatrical venues such as the Sydney Opera House.