Tuesday, 20 October 2015

The issue with the Creative Writing class: A student's perspective

Now into my third year of university as a student of  English and Creative Writing, I am beginning to see a slightly concerning trend in my creative writing modules.

I love creative writing and do it constantly. I love the idea of creating worlds and characters and blasting them onto a piece of paper into a beautiful form that can cause sadness, anger, fear, laughter, love or all of them put together. But as a young and still very fresh and naive writer, I look to all of those more experienced than me with a student's eye, whether they wish to teach me or not, to try and improve myself as a craftsman of the written word.

And as I sit going over my notes from my workshop today, a screenplay workshop for all interested, I begin to find that they are almost identical to the mental notes I took from the required reading, suggested and supplied by the university.

I am very fortunate that my university, Coventry University, supplies me with the books to keep. That they didn't say, 'here's a list of what we recommend, dig into your pockets and buy them'.

No, as part of a 'promise' they have they supplied me with all the 'essential books' to read, write in, cry over, tear up or simply leave to collect dust on the bookshelf. All other recommended books are available in the university library to which are obviously free to take out.

And though they are extremely useful, I am beginning question whether the classes are really adding to this knowledge or just regurgitating the words that myself and obviously the lecturers have already read.

For instance, in today's workshop the lecturer was going on about structure and the first step of writing a screenplay. And as I sat and listened, I had a peculiar sense of deja vu.

So, as the naturally vocal student that I am, I said to lecturer, a lovely man by the way, 'ahh as is told by Syd Field in the reading we were given for this week'.

He replied with 'yes, exactly that' for which left me somewhat irritated. At what point does this happen to be a class and not an echo of another man's teaching? I understand that there is a point of explaining the reading for those who may not have understood it or even read it but come on! We are university students in our final year of study. We wish to be stretched and worked, not painted over in the same knowledge that we had read just a day prior.

What I want from a creative writing class is how to use description in the very practical sense. How to get over the obstacles of converting our minds from writing prose to writing actions- this being in the context of the workshop for screenwriting. I want to know how to finish a piece of work and get it out there by someone who has experience of doing it. The lecturer in question is an experienced and professional screenwriter who has so much knowledge that I look at him with envy. This means I want his teachings, not someone else's. I want the blood of the man who is warm in front of me, not the the words of a man that I have already read.

Reading Syd Field's 'Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting' is excellent for this module and it will be read in my own time so that it aids my understanding of what the teacher is saying. What I then want is something extra. Something I believe I am entitled to with myself paying thousands of pounds in tuition fees.

I could give an entire lists of books that I have been given and all of them could be an entire creative writing course for a fraction of the price. All it would require was two eyes, a motivation to improve your skills and a lot practice. (If you wish for me to do another blog with these books and a little description of each one, I would be more than happy to do so; just ask!)

But, regardless of all of this, don't think that my three years of university have been wasted. The feedback I have received from coursework has been vital in reviewing my own work. Moreover, the books and articles that they have given me would not have been found if I was doing this by myself. I just sometimes question whether there could be more done.

Am I right or am I just being a little precious and ungrateful for the teaching I have received?


  1. Different people learn best in different ways.

  2. Different people learn best in different ways.

  3. Every professor has a different style. You are free to ask them to elaborate on some point made in the reading

  4. Every professor has a different style. You are free to ask them to elaborate on some point made in the reading