Hanif Kureishi is right. I would rather write in the real world than the pleasant, womb-like embrace of a creative writing course

If you don’t know how to tell a story, read stories. Read better.

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Hanif Kureishi thinks creative writing courses are a waste of time and money.

I’m not so sure, because spending a year on a course writing stories sounds wonderful, so pleasant, so nourishing, so womb-like. 

The time, the company, the care given to your development as a writer. Just think of it, sitting in class among people who want you to tell stories. Sharing ideas with real life (published) writers who would encourage you to make writing fiction a priority. The progress you would make! And presumably no one would ever ask you when you’re going to get a real job. No more, when are you going to start taking life seriously, huh.

It sounds sort of heavenly. Because I’m probably a prime candidate for one of these creative writing courses. I belong to the closeted multitudes of amateur writers, toiling before the torment of the slush pile; the self-conscious idiot yet to experience the disillusionment of rejection letters piling through the letterbox. I am the shy fool who can’t stop tinkering, in desperate need of harsh feedback. The fan who fears he will never match his heroes.

So, a creative writing course could be exactly what I need.  Feedback, support, focus. Sure. Why not.  Sounds great.  Will I enrol? No.

No-ope. Not for me.

I won’t chew over the notion of art here – the age old conundrum of whether talent can be taught. Have a google. The echo chamber of the World Wide Web covers the debate sufficiently.  

But, to me the writing course phenomenon seems like a Wizard of Oz story: a yellow brick road to nowhere. You might need a brain, or some courage, or even, dare I say it, a heart, but I’m not convinced a £6000 course is the key to finding any of those things.

If you don’t know how to tell a story, read stories. Read better. There’s surely no more comprehensive guide. And if you’re looking for feedback, share your work, join a writer’s group, talk about your ideas with your friends. Just don’t be lazy, don’t be scared, and don’t kid yourself that a £6000 degree is going to fix you any better than putting in the hours and a slug of bravery.

I don’t want to leave my world of real jobs and real people, the world of choosing to stay up way past bedtime just to squeeze out my one-thousand words. I like it here. Other lives interest me. Struggling to find enough time motivates me.  I won’t swap my life of haphazard juggling for the languorous retreats of bubblewrapped writers.

I want to write, so I will write. And I encourage you to do the same. Save your cash.  If you’re serious about writing, you’ll likely need it.