Creative Writing MA: checking in and freaking out

It’s about four months until I finish my Creative Writing MA and hand in my final project and dissertation, and although that seems like a long amount of time, I am sure, with a certain degree of dread, that the time is going to fly past.

I promised that I would document my degree on my blog, but the truth is over the past couple of months I haven’t felt much like sharing how I’ve been getting on because I haven’t felt like I’ve been getting on very well.

In terms of writing my short stories (and my new novel!), I have been going at a good pace and really enjoying the extra free time during this strange time of lockdown to revisit old stories and work on new ones. I have 2 stories left to write for my final project and I feel that everything will fit together cohesively into a nice collection.

I’ve always enjoyed writing – and the freedom of structure and genre that it brings. There is no right or wrong and I’ve grown to love every phase of the writing process – from the first seed of the idea, to the first draft, feedback and further amends and tweaks that take forever (and never really end) but also really make or break a story.

Unfortunately, I’ve felt no such love for the academic side of my degree and have been struggling to motivate myself to write critically about other writer’s writing when all I want to do is write myself.

The difference between an English Literature essay and a Creative Writing one is that in my English Lit undergraduate work I was always able to make general sweeping statements about the themes and symbols of a text, and then find quotes to back up what I was saying. This is not something you can really do with a Creative Writing essay. In a Creative Writing essay you have to start with the words and their effect. You have to remember above all that the writer has a purpose and every word has been placed their deliberately. As my tutor says: “It’s all about the language”.

I suppose you could that as an English Lit student you are looking at the text from the point of view of a reader, and as a Creative Writing student you are looking from the point of view of a writer. That distinction has been really hard to carry across into my critical work, and it’s meant that I’ve started to dread the days I set aside to knuckle down on my dissertation.

Luckily, I’ve chosen a topic that really resonates with me for my dissertation, and the texts I’m writing about are modern and interesting. It’s not so much a matter of finding articles and criticism about the works themselves anymore. It’s about dissecting the language and effect of the language. I’m not sure if this comes across as different at all, but in my mind it has been a real roadblock.

The good thing is that I’m moving forward with my dissertation and I have words on the page, even though I know I’ll have to go back and amend them. A lot. I’m the sort of person who has to work out what they’re trying to say while they’re trying to say it – it’s annoying, but I know I’ll get there in the end.

And the other good thing that I keep reminding myself is that I am still in love with writing and in love with what I am writing about. I think that is the most important thing. I know that I want to be a writer, and not an academic. Although I definitely see the value in the critical side of my degree, I am also really looking forward to the day when I can just focus on what I want to do again.

Until then – I’m going to take it day by day and do what I can. I feel grateful as ever to have the time and space to think about these kinds of things, and to be able to write about them as a way of processing. Wish me luck!

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