Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Creative Writing Courses: help or hindrance?

Can we be taught to write? Or is it creative urge that rules, OK?

This has come up a couple of times in the past week so I thought I'd set down a few thoughts.

First the craft of writing

Does that have to be learned? I'd give a very firm yes to that. And the only way to learn is to do it.

Last week I was talking to a leading writer in the UK in the mind, body, spirit genre of books. His writing was learned in the hard school of being critiqued on a daily basis by journalists and advertising copywriters. That meant he'd developed skills he could turn to any kind of writing he needed to do. Including several successful novels.

His take on inspiration was that for him, he wanted to write books that came out of experience. Not theories that hadn't been tested but had become robust through practical application.

Second: what surrounds you as a writer

In Saturday's Guardian Review is an article by Rachel Cusk on creative writing courses. Their use or otherwise.

There were three points I think need stressing::

  1. The importance of talking about yourself as a writer, even if you are still working at another job.
  2. The vital necessity of support from people who are focused on you succeeding as a writer.
  3. The need to learn the craft of writing.

You can check out the article here:


I know just being in the same room as other writers is good for me, whatever level they are. There's always something to learn.

Have you taken a creative writing course? If so how helpful was it to you?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Writing blocks: do they exist?

This came up as a question on Writing From Your Heart 12 Facebook page. www.facebook.com/writingfromyourheart

I said firmly that I didn't believe in writing blocks and I stand by that as far as it relates to the mechanics of writing. Because in terms of words on a page, there are many techniques to be used that allow you write.

Sounds harsh? Maybe but let me take you back ten years.

In my hand I held an envelope containing an assignment I'd sent off to my writing correspondence course.
I was quite pleased with it when I sent it off but by the time I'd read the comments on the accompanying sheet, I felt shredded.

Too many pages, too much waffle, not enough emotional content. It was 12 pages and my next assignment was to reduce it down to 8.

More inclined to make paper airplanes with it than look at it again, I left it for a couple of days.

Didn't look any easier to me to start changing words, or horror of horrors, deleting them.

Of course I did it. And of course my tutor was right. The reduced piece was sharper, firmer and more directed at the reader.


Where I can agree to blocks is in the emotional connection to the words you might want to write. But that's a different issue

These can happen at different stages of the writing process and need a different kind of therapy to loosen them.

  1. It may feel too emotionally charged to write about something, not allowing you to begin.
  2. While you're writing painful emotions can come upand feel threatening to you.
  3. When you've finished the writing, even if it's been therapeutic to write it, you may feel blocked about doing anything with what you've written.


After I'd answered the Facebook question I mulled over the question further and thought it might be useful to discuss it with Tom Evans, The Bookwright who has written extensively about creativity blocks.

Our discussion will go out to subscribers of WFYH Monthly Enfolding on 1 February.

Sign up at www.eileenparr.com and join in the discussion about this topic that haunts most writers at some point in their writing life.