Kureishi, creative writing courses, and the pyramid

mytwocentsI hate to keep harping on creative writing courses, because I think good writers certainly can benefit from the input of other writers. Some of the best writing comes from collaboration, and writers getting together to bounce ideas off each other has a long and honorable history.

Think the Algonquin Round Table.

I just don’t think there are enough good writers to justify the hundreds of creative writing programs out there. (An average of 20 new programs every year!) MFA alum Lev Raphael had some not-so-flattering things to say about his creative writing classmates : “Were they all good writers or even good critics of each other’s work? No.”

But, one of my more controversial takes on the academic field of creative writing is that it creates a pyramid dynamic, in which writers train other writers to be writers who train other writers, and so on, until saturation inevitably leads to market collapse.

Recently, one creative writing professor, Hanif Kureishi of Kingston University, called such programs “a waste of time” and the “the new mental hospitals,” and the commentary on it has explicitly invoked the dangers of the pyramid dynamic. Vindicated!

How about let’s stop misleading everyone into thinking they can be creative writers, if only they buy the right how-to book or take the right class. It’s a rare talent, and we should treat it that way instead of commodifying it for universal consumption.

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