Modern literature is a grab-bag of styles and voices. From highbrow eloquence and poetical literary structure to gritty, colloquialism-rammed urgent storytelling. It’s fair to say that the days of the classics have passed and so is the notion that to be a writer is to command language in the way that Dickens or the Brontes did. Writing is no longer an elitist pursuit and there is no longer the hegemony of the traditionally educated author. Best seller charts are refreshingly egalitarian and it seems that anyone can ‘have a go’ now.
My company, Writers’ Workshop is very much in the thick of it in this medium. We find editors for first-time authors and generally offer services which guide the ambitious toward publication. I am often asked by people who would like to write whether it’s worth their while if they haven’t ever studied literature or, in some cases, even finished school. I tend to think that the term ‘education’ doesn’t need to be interpreted traditionally. To live is to become educated. A degree in literature might be less useful to an author than a lifetime of experiencing and learning to understand the nuances of a certain slice of society which is worth writing about.
What is important is really not traditional education but a basic grounding in the actual craft of writing. There are a wide variety of introductory courses to writing which will help you get to grip on basics like structure, theme, characters, writing dialogue and pacing a narrative. Writing must be viewed as a craft, not a talent, anyone who can put up a shelf or knit a jumper should be able to grasp the notion that once you learn the basic techniques of a craft, you’re free to go on and be creative with it.
So, if you’ve always harbored the dream to write, don’t get hung up on your background or level of education. Literature is open to all. Just find the way that works best for you to learn those basic techniques. Writing courses: be they evening classes, online writing courses, or writing groups are all readily available. You don’t need an education, you just need a grounding in basic techniques.
BIO: Laura Wilkins runs the Writers’ Workshop, which offers creative writing courses and editorial advice. The Writers’ Workshop also host The Festival of Writing, an event focused on providing professional advice on the craft of writing and how to finally get yourself published.