Academic writing courses – stifling the creative community, or a way for generation-X to find its niche in an ever changing literary world and depressing economic climate? Before I a’salt’ you all with my opinion on this, let me give my disclaimer about how I’m only 10% hypocrite, 20% preachy and 70% corrupter of the young (Socrates, I would catch you if I could). First of all, by day (and by paycheck) I run a creative writing workshop for teenagers among other pursuits. Do I teach creative writing in my workshop? No. I harbour the belief that creative writing is a combo of a few things: talent+hardwork+perserverence+an open-minded attitude (criticism should help an artist develop their skills, not be used as an excuse to damage egos!) What I do do in my creative writing workshop is give teenagers the opportunity to develop their style, find their voice in an environment where they can feel safe to share their work, edit their writing, explore POV and characterisation (in terms of fiction) and try out new styles of poetry (last week they played with alliteration, this time we might write some fun, little, school-themed clerihew to indulge their childish sides).
This week, I read an anthology of up and coming younger poets, and a few things struck me about it. First of all, surprise – I didn’t realise that at 32, I’m considered part of this generation of ‘young’ poets. Secondly, given I had an expectation of a new approach to an age-old art form, I found the verse to be a disappointment, summed up by one word: bland. Poetry should make a statement, throw an insult, do something…anything! Academia, cronyism, nepotism… anyone with £££ can pay to do a writing course. Do the postgraduate connections into the publishing world necessarily mean the work has any literary merit? Nope! I reckon the best writing out there comes from only one university in the whole wide world… a BA in Creative Writing from The School of Life Experience. As for me? I have an MPhil in Writeology and a PHD in Writeonomy. Check out my portfolio (of sorts) for details of my full poetic license. In the mean time, try this on for size: