Having recently graduated with a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of Southampton, I wanted to talk about my journey for anyone who might be considering one in the future.
2018 has indeed been a whirlwind. A few months ago the deadlines seemed never-ending. My plans post-university were all over the place and I had the everyday stresses of a chronic illness to contend with. The latter hasn’t changed all that much – I’m still sick, and my career plans are in… well, limbo, for now.
But now the water has settled and I’m able to look back: I can say quite confidently that I’m incredibly happy about completing this MA! I enrolled with the aim to enrich my writing and I have achieved this goal.
Considering the fact that I started with no novel idea at all, or any real idea of how to begin, I leave university with a good chunk of my piece ‘finished’ (or as finished as any work can ever be…), and an outline for the rest. I view this as my biggest attainment on the MA and I am very excited about what the future holds.
Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith.
As Margaret Atwood once said:
‘You are not a writer if you are not writing.’
(Oh, and my favourite, for those days where I doubt myself):
‘The wastepaper basket is your best friend’
Throughout the year, I have met some brilliant, inspiring academics. I have gained incredibly valuable knowledge of the publishing industry and how to be a better researcher. I have had the chance to work on a fantastic literary project hosted by the Artful Scribe and thrive on a beautiful campus.
And, of course, I have met like-minded, aspiring writers who I consider to be good friends.
This course was the best decision for me, and I’m glad that I went for it.
Saying this, I don’t believe that a Creative Writing Masters is for everyone.
Workshops can be very gruelling. Writing won’t be a relaxing, past-time hobby anymore (as I so naively thought it would be!). Your schedule will be just as demanding as any subject – the dissertation is 20,000 words long- and you will need a thick skin for criticism. (The truth is, not everyone will like your work, and that’s ok.)
But if you are hungry to write; if there’s a story that’s been in your bones for a long time; if you’ve put writing off for too long and need something to drive you towards your goals… The Masters could be a good avenue for you to consider.
Finishing this Masters has imbued me with a sense of confidence that I most certainly didn’t have before. Also, completing a novel now feels possible.
Every person is different — but what I needed during my early writing journey was guidance as my work developed.
And I have had a lot of fun along the way!
My favourite module was Writing for Children and Young Adults, taught by Rebecca Smith. It exposed me to an eclectic variety of novels and writing styles and helped me to discover the target audience that I wanted to write for. I also thoroughly enjoyed Southampton University’s Writers in Conversation programme. The engaging series offered an opportunity to hear from fiction writers, poets, non-fiction writers and playwrights, who read sections of their fantastic pieces and answered the questions we were all itching to ask.
I also had a lot of fun at two main social events of the year organised by Southampton’s Postgraduate Society. I thoroughly enjoyed the Boat Party and Summer Ball, which were perfectly timed after exam and assignment season.
Our cohort also had an amazing opportunity to create and launch our Pickup Anthology at the John Hansard Gallery. The anthology is a taster of stories that we have produced over the year – from novel openings to short pieces – and encapsulates our growth as writers.
My advice to anyone considering Postgraduate study is to do your research. A Masters is rather specialised and so, you want to make sure that you are making the most of your year.
Make contact with the staff and read up on the modules on offer (they sometimes vary from year to year). Chat with former students and visit the campus.
Ultimately, if you want to do it… Do it!
After all, you never know where a course like Creative Writing will take you…