Creative Writing Courses At Uni: A Pro Or A Con?
You learn a lot at university, and rightfully so there is so much great courses to choose from! As being a recent English Literature graduate, I had the pleasure of taking some really great classes at my uni, from Romantic lit to studying US Fictions of the Great Depression. However, one course which I didn’t seem to like was my creative writing poetry course I took in my third year.
A bit of a disclaimer before I start this article… I am not at all bashing my uni for this course or saying that the teachers where bad in any shape or form! It is purely a personal viewpoint as to why I didn’t necessarily like the course!
So to begin with, I choose to do the creative writing poetry course at my uni in my third year- the first year where we were able to choose what courses we wanted to study.
I have always wanted to be a writer and have loved to write poems more than anything, so I thought this course would really help me to progress and improve my writing skills.
With that being said, I did have a few apprehensions about the course myself as it required to write a poem each week where we would have to read them out and discuss them with the class. Considering I have anxiety and that I am not the most confidence person out there, I did think that this would be an issue for me.
However, I really was trying to combat my anxiety that year and was trying not to let it stop me from doing the things I wanted to do and try. I also wanted to start saying ‘yes’ to more things that scared me as it would help me to grow more confident as a person. So with that being said, I decided to do the course as a result and was looking forward to it!
When I got to class, all the enthusiasm I once had soon left my body! The tutors where explaining the structure of the course and all the things expected of us. Also, considering it was a new course that was only introduced that year, they wanted us to know that they will try their best to make it a good course despite it being new and not yet tested out.
As class ended, they told us we had to make a poem about what we learnt in that class- which was ‘lexicons’ and that we were expected to come to the next class with that poem and prepared to read it out and discuss it. It came as a shock that the next seminar class was just TWO DAYS later! This really made me start to panic, causing my anxiety levels to increase as a consequence!
Not only did I have two days to make a poem about this literary technique, but I had to prepare myself for reading a poem of my own creation out to the class… something which I had never done before!
I wrote my poem one night and sent it off in time for class the next day. I was at first trying to be positive and act confident. I also somehow manged to read my poem and talk about it to my class without throwing up… impressive right? But I knew deep down it was just too much of a stressful environment for me which I just had to PRETEND to like!
When it came to the next week I was feeling even more anxious and insecure.
I was kind of putting off writing my second poem as I could feel it would ultimately unleash my sense of panic that I was desperately trying to hide and control. So the day came where I got all my text books on my bed and my laptop in hand, fully prepared to start writing. I sat there utterly static in front of my screen, unable to think of a single idea! I felt upset, angry with myself and like an ABSOLUTE loser! I could not do what I did best and what I loved to do and that is WRITE! I starred at my blank screen and burst out crying in panic! I went to talk to my flatmate as I could not take it anymore, I had to talk about it! I then decided to go for a walk to clear my mind and decide what I was going to do next. After that I knew I was not in the mind set to write anything and I was just too upset to even think creatively. I just went to bed, hoping to sleep off all my frustrations and be ready to start writing with a clear mind in the morning. At that point, I was 99% convinced about the fact that I wanted to contact my adviser and drop the course to choose something else in its place. However, I have never quit something before and I am not the type of person to give up at all so I really didn’t want to admit to myself that this is something I wanted to do when the next day came.
My class started at 12 and I got up early to create my poem.
I think it was just the sheer thought of not having that much time which enabled me to write a poem as I knew that I had to get something on a page and send it off by 10. Bu that point I got up feeling the same and I wrote an email to my adviser, explaining my situation. I decided to just write a poem and sent it off in case I was told I wasn’t allowed to drop the course. I waited in agitation, PRAYING for my adviser to reply back. She did not reply and the time of my seminar was growing closer and closer. I decided to go to uni a bit early and talk to my adviser as I knew she might have been a bit too busy to actually see and respond to my email.
I knocked on her door and told her everything about how stressed I was whilst also sheading a few tears as well! I was so lucky in the fact that she was so nice and understanding about it, telling me it happens to lots of people and students ALWAYS come to here with the exact same problem! She dropped me out of the course and put me in another one, whilst even introducing me to the new tutor of my new course!
However, although I gave a sign off relief as I left her office I saw my old tutor from the writing course as she was on her way to that seminar I no longer needed to go to! She was confused at first by why I was headed towards the other direction but I openly told her my situation and she- to my delight, completely understood!
After that I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and that I could actually breathe again!
I wanted to narrate this story as it demonstrates all the negative things about creative writing courses. It was just really stressful to write a poem in two days about/ using a literary technique you have just learnt in an hour! Also, most people write when they get inspiration, much like myself and so I found it really hard to write every week on the same time when I knew it had to be due the next day! It doesn’t help if you are not confident which is a regularity in most young people and so reading a poem of your creation is even more daunting purely because it is so personal!
However, if you are a confident person who can write whenever and a person who doesn’t care about what people think then this course would be perfect for you.
It’s fair to say that some people are just naturally confident and born writers who can produce anything if you tell them to. It just depends on the person really as well, as you can also get some writers who can purely write from experience or when inspiration hits them.
Regardless, even though doing creative writing as a course at uni was not for me, it was definitely a learning experience. It proved to me that I am NOT a superhuman who can do and tolerate anything and everything! I also learnt that it’s OK for you to admit defeat sometimes as it is all about what makes you happy at the end of the day!
Overall, I realised that sometimes giving up doesn’t make you weaker but stronger. It proves we are willing to change our lives for the better no matter if we have to take a few steps back to do so. 🙂
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