To M.A. or not to M.A. – part 2; the writing academy course

About a year ago, I procrastinated myself into a corner. But it was one with a door. I wrote about my dilemma – To M.A. or not to M.A. I had unexpectedly found myself with the time, the hours and the finance to cope with a writing course and I discussed the pros and cons of doing a university M.A. vs. a writing academy course. Well … I have just completed 5 months of writing academy and have to say that it was, I think, the right decision. It allowed me to concentrate on my writing, which not all Masters degrees do. It fitted in with my life outside writing. It was intense but achievable. And it was fun. Lots of people have written about the value or otherwise of creative writing courses often from the point of view that ‘you can’t teach someone how to write.’ I beg to differ – if a writing course teaches the shape of a story, the importance of plot and the central role of character, then it doesn’t require a leap of faith to surmise that an understanding of these things will inform and assist the writing of any author. Learning that there are few hard and fast rules, that character drives the story, that without character there is no plot and without character no substance, is incredibly freeing. Get into your characters head; hit him or her with ‘what if’ missiles at every turn; think – what does he want, what is standing in his way and how will he overcome the obstacles lying in his path – and your story will fly. In theory.

Attending the writing academy has been such an enjoyable experience – everything from the country-mouse-visiting-the-big-city (London) and mastering the game of sardines on the tube (answer – avoid the busy times and walk everywhere), to the squeezed-in trip to the National Gallery to see the Goya portraits; from the camaraderie with people who understand that the need to withdraw into your own lonely little world and indulge your passion for words and story telling is not a symptom of mental illness but an wonderful and intoxicating expression of creativity, to finding independent coffee shops with incredible coffee; from being able to say no to offers of work because-I’m-at-my-writing-course-that-day, to the warm encouragement from the other writers on the course; and above all the freedom to write and to tell family and friends that I am writing without feeling that they will somehow not take it seriously, or worse put my aspirations down. To end five months with an understanding of the tools needed to write a book and the belief that I can probably write is a fine result. Better still is the friendship forged through trust and sharing of our stories with the other writers on the writing academy course.

But what happens next? Does a post academy chasm open up and gobble me back into a world of career and snatched, diminishing slivers of time in which to write? Or is life post-academy a life when I prioritise writing? Somehow. Yesterday, at our final session, we each listed three things that we either have to or want to do next. If I distill our aims into a collective list and stir it into mine – the answer to the ‘what happens next’ question becomes a little less hazy.

First, I have to properly finish the writing academy course – there is the biography and synopsis required for the alumnae book and then the agent reading afternoon. Both daunting. But both well defined and with deadlines, which makes them a little easier than the second aim of the ‘what next in the life of a post-writing academy writer,’ which is to make some decisions. For me, do I continue with the book I have shared on the course – continue to edit, to wade through the treacle of fine tuning the voice and tighten the story? Or do I mentally place it in a drawer and start something new? Or return to one of my other projects?

My third intention is to pick up again my writing of blogs, poems and short stories. And to experiment with other familiar and less familiar forms of writing. And see where they take me.

Perhaps – aside from the oft repeated character, character, character – the essential message I take away from the writing academy course is to continue writing. My stories will only get written if I write them. I believe in them. If I write them well, others might believe in them too. If I understand why I write, how to write, when to write and believe that I can, then I will find the time to do it and I will become the writer I want to be.


Perhaps, I’ll revert back to my procrastinating ways. Although, if I’m honest, I never really stopped procrastinating – I just had slightly less time to devote to it.

Perhaps, I’ll be lucky and an agent will like my words and take me on. And I’ll step a little closer to that dream of being a published author.

Perhaps, if I simply continue to enjoy the craft of writing, I’ll be happy. Happy enough.

… who am I kidding?