We didn’t have creative writing when I was a kid. We just had writing.
I think creative writing started in the United States at the end of the nineteenth century or the beginning of the twentieth. There was growing feeling that students should be able to submit a creative piece for credit for a degree. That was when the academy sold the pass.
I think it got going after the Second World War, again in America. There was two-year residential programme for a master’s degree in Iowa that became quite famous. I am afraid that to me it sounds utterly ludicrous.
For a long time the only degree-level programme in England was at East Anglia. That started I think in the 60s. More recently they have proliferated.
I have heard that they are now recognised by publishers, to the extent that they believe that they see better manuscripts now that so many people are taking MFAs. If that is so, God help us.
As far as I am aware there are two approaches. There is the workshop, in which other students make comments, and there are also attempts to teach technique. The workshop style must promote conformity, and teaching technique must involve conventional solutions. If that is what is improving the manuscripts that publishers see, God help us once again,
Most novels are fake. They are entirely worthless. The only thing that creative writing courses can really teach is how to fake it more convincingly. It beggars belief that supposedly talented young people are prepared to spend thousands of pounds and a couple of years learning how to pretend they have written a novel. Yet it appears that is what they do.
It makes no difference to me. I don’t read those books. I don’t submit manuscripts to those publishers. I don’t take any interest in the prizes those people give each other.
Yet it angers me. This is the culture I have to try to live in.
What happened to telling the truth?