Are creative writing courses worth it?


I'm currently caught between the sensible and romantic sides of my personality. I got a 2.2 Geography BSc from Leeds 4 years ago, and since then have been working in a job I hate, unconnected to my degree. I know that the sensible thing to ensure a reasonably happy life would be to do a masters in a geography / environmental discipline, to enable me to work in that kind of field. However, my real ambition is to be a writer, so I'm inevitably drawn to looking at creative writing masters.

Does anyone know whether a creative writing masters is of any real benefit to a prospective writer? Surely there are plenty of published authors who haven't done such a course. I haven't done any English literature since GCSE, although I read a lot for pleasure, so would I be floundering on a course which will inevitably involve analysis of literature? (Some of the courses seem to accept people with degrees in unconnected disciplines).

Whenever I allow myself to wonder about seriously persuing a career as a writer, I'm brought up short by the obvious facts that only a tiny proportion of prospective authors are actually published, that many published writers do not make enough money from their work to actually live on, that I have no assurance of my skill beyond comments from the small number of friends who have read things that I have written, that seeing some of the tripe that is published reduces my confidence in publishers' ability to discern quality when they see it (or rather, the reading public's ability to discern quality, hence determining what there is a market for).

It's all so confusing. Partly this post was just the chance to rant for a bit when I should be working, but if anyone has any ideas about anything I've mentioned, that would be helpful!


What are you interested in, specifically: is it prose, poetry, screenwriting? It might be a good idea to submit some stuff for publication or awards (the Eric Gregory is a big step to publication for young poets, for instance), join a writing group to get used to receiving and offering feedback, and getting a portfolio of published and unpublished short pieces together to submit to a possible agent or to a creative writing course. All that stuff can be done for free and then, if you do decide to go down the MA route, you have a really strong grounding and will have a better chance of getting on one of the more prestigious courses (and therefore get better value for the money you'll be shelling out for it).

You might find that you don't need to spend the money on the MA anyway, or at least be much better prepared to make use of the opportunity if you're accepted on a course. I have a PhD in English Studies, and there's a lot of worry that some of the Creative Writing courses out there are not great value for money for the students (although excellent money-makers for the universities, especially at post-grad level): if you're going to do it, get on a course somewhere with a good reputation, like UEA or Newcastle, because the opportunities for networking and contact with agents are going to be much better, and that's what you really need to get out of it.


Yes, UEA is the most famous.