As of yesterday, I am officially a student again. There’s something a bit ridiculous about that, given that I am so ancient and curmudgeonly and prone to delivering rants about the gruesomeness of students and young folk in general. And yet. Here I am.
There was a get-out-of-jail-free opportunity on Thursday morning when, after being welcomed by the course tutors, and praised for getting places on such an elite and unique programme, my fellow students and I were invited to leave. “No shame,” they said, and they meant it. “Leave before you give us any money.” I thought seriously about the proposition. Was I there for the right reasons? Would I be able to cope with the work? Was I ready for this? The tutors asked us some searching questions, and I, in turn, searched myself for the answers. I promised myself that I would leave if it was the right thing to do, and I would have, too. This is not the right course for everyone – but for me, it’s perfect.
It helps that the Napier programme is so ridiculously awesome. It is unlike any other creative writing course in the known universe. There are no workshops where students critique each others’ work – you can do that in your spare time. On the course, we get feedback from experienced writers, editors and agents. There’s no poetry component, and no literary snobbery. Instead, we are challenged to improve our writing by putting it into theoretical contexts, by experimenting with form, content, genre, style, tone; by focusing on structure, point of view, and all the other nuts and bolts of writing as a craft. No one is asking you to express yourself, find your voice or confront your emotional pain in some kind of voyeuristic pseudo-therapeutic ‘safe’ space. What they do ask of you is a serious commitment to the course, and to your own writing career, and to yourself as a writer. It is incredibly exciting and I feel stupidly lucky that I’ve got the chance to be a part of this.
If you think I’m exaggerating how good this course is, I’m sorry. I’m underplaying it, because I don’t want you to be jealous. I’m going to be a better writer – immeasurably better – and I am off my head with happiness.