Five ways to become a better writer – without leaving York

1 Jun 2017 @ 5.05 pm
| Education, Entertainment

Lizzi Linklater, associate lecturer at The University of York, offers you five reasons to apply for the part-time postgraduate diploma in Creative Writing, and invites you to sign up for the Lifelong Learning Open Day

It seems to me that successful writers are either self-taught, choosing the path of isolated literary struggle, or else they seek out like-minded souls to encourage and support them.

Creative writing diploma

The programme runs face-to-face and online

Sign up for our open day on Jun 17

See programme details

The latter could take the form of a writers’ group, which are often quite wonderful, or conversely, be a more studious gathering where focus is on a structured, guided exploration of the conventions and practice of writing creatively.

Of course, any of these ways can work.

But, if you find yourself bent low beneath the burden of a persistent, unfulfilled desire to write, if your confidence is dinted, if you are sick to death of making paltry excuses for your indolence, then here are my top five reasons for you to seriously contemplate joining me.

1. Exposure to the written and spoken word

Left to our own devices we tend to read the type of literature we’ve always read. The same applies to our viewing and to our listening.

On my programme you’re guided to read, assess, discuss and write about a range of literature that may not be your natural preference. But in order to appreciate the literary possibilities of what, how and why we might write we sometimes need to experience what we might ordinarily avoid. In so doing we’re building knowledge, understanding and technical expertise.

And from this thorough immersion we emerge richer and more grounded in suggestion of what is attainable.

2. Exploration of the creative self

To write at all requires imagination, innovation, technical know-how and an element of emotional risk taking. To then share our writing with others courage must be conjured up both to give and to receive criticism.

To be able to offer this constructive critique, knowledge, confidence, sensitivity, honesty and strength are vital. We become more creative by sharing our creativity.

For our imaginations to be stimulated we must let go of preconceptions; open ourselves up to new ideas and be responsive to the world around us.

The programme offers you all these aspects alongside getting you writing poetry, short stories, novels, and radio screen and TV scripts. A whole range of literary modes and styles.

Photograph: Juliette Leufke

3. Exploration of the critical self

Successful writers are avid readers, thinkers, philosophers, observers, commentators, debaters, and analysts. We need then to sharpen our intellectual faculties.

We need to learn the processes of research, the language of literary theory, to acquire the terminology for critique and, overall, write and speak confidently in areas that demand a scholarly tone.

If this sounds scary be assured that, as in your creative pursuits, I’ll be there to guide, lead, reassure and challenge you.

4. A sense of belonging

Group cohesion is one of the hallmarks of an active, lively and engaged writing group. The challenges I set my students, along with comments on their writing and with a commitment to consciously nurture them, results in the creation of strong, productive, supportive and caring groups.

Along with this is the fact that peer group critique requires trust. Trust needs to be earned, but gradually it builds.

The sense of happy cohesion in my online groups at Writers’ Weekends has been met by surprise by visiting writers who have assumed that the online forum would prevent such closeness.

It really doesn’t. For a face-to-face group all the above features apply along with the added benefits of extra-curricular outings in our lovely, literary city.

Photograph: Mikhail Pavstyuk

5. The production of a portfolio of writing

By the end of the programme you’ll have researched and written a range of critical and reflective essays, and an assortment of short stories, scripts and poems and will own the synopsis of a novel along with a substantial extract.

Bear in mind too that those pieces that are assessed will have been stringently first and second marked here, and then moderated by the University of Oxford.

Your writing will have been examined, discussed, sometimes argued over, and a final mark awarded with a rigorous and useful thoroughness so you’ll know what you do well and what you need to work on.

To finish… It’s hard work. It’s demanding. It’s lively. It’s fun. But most importantly, it pins you down to write.

The support is always there…I’ve discovered new ways of thinking…I see myself as the writer I’ve always wanted to be.

– Alison Keys, student 2016-18