Date of Publication: 13 September 2017
The collaborative nature of writing is a fundamental part of penning a masterpiece; polishing your prose through constructive criticism. However, students can initially be very reticent to offer a critique of their peer’s work or to share their own, ultimately holding them back as a writer. Leigh Joslin, Oxford Summer Courses Analyst and Scriptwriter, shares his experiences of learning his craft…
For me, the best and purest thing to expect from a creative writing class, is to expect anything. You may enter with an agenda, but when your creative juices get going, you’ll leave with more than you expected and, hopefully, filled with a steely determination to attack the blank white page as soon as possible.
That’s what it was like for me when I was attending scriptwriting classes at university. I honestly was unsure of what we would be specifically doing. I was expecting the unexpected. I just knew that I wanted to write something and wanted to know more about how to do it.
It was with this approach that I learnt it is best for everybody, especially the individual, that everyone within the class should express their ideas to the group; to share opinions and to do so comfortably.
And yet everyone did it so very uncomfortably. Myself included. It was a learning curve, but I wasn’t the first writer to have insecurities about his written work and I won’t be the last. As a common hurdle for any writing class to overcome, Oxford University and indeed most creative writing tutors encourage a collaborative and welcoming atmosphere; providing you the forum to open up and share your thoughts.
There is reason for this. Dare I say, it is where the magic happens. You really learn the most about yourself as a writer, about the written work of your peers and about the craft itself by taking your stories/scripts/ideas/pitches/notes (whatever it may be) and by vocalising them to your group. Feedback is key at all stages of writing. With this in mind, here are three things to expect (and embrace) from a writing class:
- STAND UP AND PRESENT
Your tutor and your classmates will want to know who you are, where you’re from and what you’re writing about. Be ready to speak to the group so that you do yourself and your writing justice when the moment inevitably comes. Creative Writing students aged 16-24 studying with Oxford Summer Courses are ordinarily taught through seminars and tutorials, providing students with valuable opportunities to present and discuss their own writing in both groups and individually.
- WORKING AS A GROUP
Expect to be randomly paired and be given a sliver of time to come up with an original piece of writing, for later presentation to the group. This was common in my own experience, with specific sources of information such as newspaper clippings/headlines or a photograph often providing the seed for our story. Creative Writing courses with Oxford Summer Courses can involve tasks to write short stories and/or a poem which can be difficult to do within a set time, but hugely satisfying upon completion. Also, so much constructive feedback and good advice shall be obtained by sharing this with your fellow students and tutor.
- BE PREPARED TO PERFORM
Performing is different to presenting. You may be required to get into character and speak the lines of which you type! This is a healthy and useful exercise because it will highlight areas that work well and will also highlight areas that need more attention. Embrace this nerve-wracking element of creative writing classes and workshop your ideas. Accept that what you write first-time around will not be on a par with Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Most importantly, be willing to re-write whilst also understanding the difference between plain feedback and helpful feedback.
Oxford is one of the world’s literary capitals, home to many of the great English writers – where better to discover your own voice as a writer, and scholar.
On a final note – within the scriptwriting community I know, we don’t like the term, “aspiring writer” because if you are writing stuff, thinking about writing and/or are plotting, note-taking and analysing, then guess what? You ARE a writer. It is a constant journey when you have decided to write. So always showcase your writing talent.
Sound like your ideal summer? Learn more about our English Literature and Creative Writing courses!