20 Jun 2014

Creative writing courses yes or no? Australian and Spanish perspectives

My wonderful writers group
Last night I met with friends from my writing group. They’re a wonderful bunch of people who have helped me develop my writing over the last couple of years. We met at a local creative writing group.

I think finding other writers to share their work with is one of the hardest things for aspiring authors. Not only it’s hard to find other people who are interested reading each other’s work and give constructive feedback but maintaining this for a long period of time is an achievement of its own. Australia is a country where creative writing workshops and writers centres are well-established.

This contrasts with the situation in Spain. Although there are some centres that have started to teach creative writing in the last few years and people now have the option to study literature at college (before you had to study linguistics in addition to literature) creative writing courses are still looked at with suspicion.

Again and again articles are written about how useless these courses are. Authors give interviews where they talk about how the best thing for aspiring authors to do is to read respected authors with attention and humility. No course is going to give anyone the solution to their creative questions, they say.

I wonder if some of this attitude is just snobbery.

Often in Spanish media you can read comments about how none of the old classics needed a creative writing course to write excellent work. I can only say, good for them but each of us are different and learn in different ways. Some people will be able to take in the skills and elements that make a piece of work brilliant by reading it, others will need some guidance from reading books on creative writing, attending a course, or joining a writers group. This is unless you’re lucky enough to personally know an author who is happy to mentor you and give you feedback on a regular basis.

I can understand that some creative writing courses can be bad, especially if they are run by people without credentials, taking advantage of writers who hope their work will one day be published. Bu I firmly believe that attending a creative writing course (or many) is as valid a way of learning the craft of writing as any other. Attending a creative writing course can also be a great way to meet like-minded people.

So, at risk of seeming uncool and untalented, I’d suggest Spanish universities and authors get on board and start to provide a better environment for literary creativity to flourish.