A few years back, I was surprised to learn that one of my all-time favourite female writers, Jeanette Winterson, had agreed to take up a place as Professor of Creative Writing at The University of Manchester. Whilst it isn’t odd to discover a writer working at a university, after all they are indeed the experts, it was rather Jeanette’s choice of courses that I questioned the reasoning behind.
The MA in Creative Writing is a relatively new course. A Post Graduate degree course, it is usually aimed at those who are planning on a writing a book, or looking to begin on a bigger writing project throughout the two-year full-time course. Though not many MA courses are essential for career progression, there has been wide spread scepticism about this specific MA; more so, whether it is even necessary if one wishes to write a book?
Can an Author Be Successful Without an MA?
I could fill a book with the number of authors names I know of that have successfully written and published books, many to critical acclaim, and yet not one of these authors has an MA in Creative Writing between them! Now, when it comes to those authors who do have such a qualification, I really couldn’t tell you who has this title without having to do a bit of research on. So, why do universities feel that this qualification is essential?
What Makes a Successful Writer?
The ultimate question I suppose I feel needs answering is, can creative writing ever be taught? This is the fundamental argument which currently exists between those who agree on the introduction of a Creative Writing MA, as opposed to those who feel it a waste of time, money and effort.
I think we can all agree, regardless of our MA opinions, that no one can be taught to write a best-selling book. You need only look at the background of Harry Potter’s creator to realise nothing could be further from the truth. So, I suppose what an MA sets out to do is introduce the writer to technique, setting, characterisation and all the other essential tools required when attempting to write a book.
However, there is no guarantee that taking this route will assure you of a publishing deal with a best-seller at the end of it. Would you not be better placed just writing? After all, if Stephen King and JK Rowling started out in humble beginnings, with not a trace of an MA between them, surely there is hope for all of us budding novelists?