Thursday, 25 June 2009

Completing a Creative Writing Degree... What's Next? Masters Degree?

This is the question that is plaguing many creative writing graduates at the moment, myself included.

Creative writing is a very, very broad topic. There are hundreds of things you could do as a creative writer, which can actually be more confusing than if there were only a few directions to take.

To MA, or not to MA?

One thing I have learned from my three years at university is that being taught by writing professionals, as well as mixing and workshopping frequently with other writers, greatly improved my writing. Last week I read through my first year work, and then looked at my short story dissertation - I was actually quite shocked at how much I had improved without realising it.

Not only that, but I loved being around other writers, and having tasks and assignments gives me that extra bit of motivation to write. I would LOVE to do a Creative Writing MA. But is now the time to do one?

There are three main issues I think need to be addressed.

Finishing university with £20,000 of debt, no job, and with no government funding for an MA, £5000 is perhaps a little steep... There is no way I personally can afford to do an MA at the moment. Others may be in a different situation. However, I fear that the longer I put it off, the higher the fees will creep...

Is it the best idea to go straight from a BA to an MA? Much of our creative writing roots from personal experience. I don't mean all our stories actually happened to us in some way, but being in the world and experiencing it as much as possible adds richness to writing, whether it's through meeting lots of interesting people, to observing different cultures while travelling, or simply discovering a giant ant nest underneath your BBQ (this happened to me last week!).

As time goes on, your history of life experience inevitably increases. This is not to say that young writers have nothing to say - by no means! But maybe now is a good time to have a break from taught and assessed writing schemes and go and do something different. I guarantee your writing will benefit from it.

(In fact, I heard that Andrew Cowan, one of the directors of the UEA's Creative Writing MA, prefers students who have spent time doing something different between a creative writing BA and MA for exactly these reasons.)

This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. If I had money to burn, I would do a creative writing MA at some point simply for the pleasure of it. However, since I'm having to scrape my pennies together, I'm wondering what the best education is for my career path. If I am one hundred per cent set on becoming a full time writer and author, then yes, I would probably do a creative writing MA in a heartbeat. However, the reality is that most writers don't make it big enough to live off their writing alone. And writing full time is a lot tougher than people think.

So, would I be better off doing a creative writing MA, or perhaps a business MA, or a publishing MA, or would it be better to spend my money on some other kind of education or course altogether? Right now, I have chosen the latter option. I am currently enrolled in a long-distance learning course to obtain a copy-editing qualification. This cost me about a tenth of the price of an MA, at £550. So, it's important to look at the bigger picture. I can still be a writer without having a MA in writing, while also increasing my job prospects in other areas.

If you would like to see what types of creative writing MAs are out there and where, Prospects has a great database HERE.


  1. Hi Sophie
    Popped over from Critters Bar to have a look.
    Like your blog!

    Not having done an MA I can't speak from personal experience, but my feeling is it would be better to take a break. The copy editing option sounds like a wise move, giving you a chance to earn while you write. And in a few years time you may have a clearer idea which MA you want to do.
    Careers are never easy decisions. I'm over fifty and still don't know what I want to be when I grow up! :-)
    Cheers, Sandra

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Sandra. Yeah, I hear ya about the career decisions! They used to pressure us at school, at about the age of thirteen and fourteen, to start thinking about what career we wanted and planning how to get there. Very scary stuff!

  3. Hi Sophie,

    I popped across from Twitter.

    I done a MA last year in creative writing and was deeply disappointed. The tutors cared more about their egos and dismissed the internet as a writing outlet. But I did do a BA at a different university and loved it. I took my gap year before uni but having a break might help you find some ideas to take to the MA.

    Jessica :)

  4. Hi Jessica, thanks for popping by.

    It's good to hear other people's experiences of Creative Writing MAs/BAs. I wonder if most universities are like that when it comes to teaching creative writing. Hopefully most aren't!

  5. Hi Sophie! Robin from Critters here -- lovely blog. You know what I think about school - LOVE IT -- but if you can't afford it then you'll have to put it off for a while. If you wind up working, just work toward a goal -- trip, time off for writing, whatever -- that way it'll seem more worth it somehow.


  6. Wuuuuuh! Come to Keele University - our Creative Writing Masters is new this coming academic year, which means those who take it (I assume it's anyone, not just continuing Keele students) get a thousand pounds off! :)

  7. Thanks for the tip, Red. I'll check it out!


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