Malcolm Bradbury

Should We Teach Creative Writing

There is an old piece of wisdom that proposes that every one of us has a novel somewhere inside, just waiting to be written. There are times when I suspect that every one of us has now written it, had it neatly typed, bound in a blue folder, and has put it in the post, addressed to me. Like, no doubt, many writers, I receive through the mails quite a large number of typescripts from aspiring novelists; the not-yet-successful, the never-to-be successful, the ones who have tried to publish, the ones who wonder whether they should try to publish, and want, really, to know how to go about it. I also get novels – and parts of novels, and plans for novels – from my students at the University of East Anglia, as do, no doubt, many university teachers. And, because I run, at that university, an M.A. course in Creative Writing (devoted primarily to fiction, though with some attention to television and stage drama), I also get, around March or April, yet more typescripts, coming from those who are prepared to devote a year of their lives to a systematic course in the subject. It is an odd experience; when I go out into the streets and see them full of people, buying and selling, working and striking, I sometimes feel that, under all the macs and the sweaters, the suits and the dresses, there beats in almost every case the heart of a would-be writer.

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