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Creative Writing


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What to Expect

You need some thick skin to make it as a creative writing student. Most programs include workshops in which students read their work out loud and have it critiqued by their peers.

Russ Josephs received his graduate degree in creative writing from City College in New York City. He says that this is not the isolated field some believe it to be.

While you should certainly write in a quiet, secluded place (Josephs recommends 10 to 20 hours per week or more), the workshops are anything but quiet. In these interactive sessions, students have to read their work aloud and accept the constructive criticism of others.

"No one will benefit from being coddled," adds Jill Raab, a graduate of the master's program in creative writing at Godard College in Vermont.

Josephs says students must be able to give and receive constructive criticism. "Otherwise, they may never progress to a level where they can be taken seriously as a writer."

In a creative writing program, students are being graded on their creative work, not academics. It can be a very subjective set of criteria, unlike traditional academic assignments.

"A good day is when your own work is being discussed or when you are critiquing an excellent piece of writing," he says. A bad day came when the class had to review something less inspiring, or when others in the class were too self-conscious about rules and procedures to make a solid creative contribution.

Josephs adds that the most valuable result of his graduate degree was the discipline he developed.

Raab agrees. "There was no time, room or tolerance for writer's block," she says. "I learned to write under all conditions, and to develop a strong ego and a tough skin for feedback. It was the hardest, best work I have ever done."

How to Prepare

Do not restrict your interests. "Being a writer, there is no limit to what one can write about; thus any experiences are valid. And the more one has, the better one can pursue a vast array of topics in their work," says Josephs.

"Read as many books as you can get your hands on, and try to write every day, even if just a few lines."


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