Have you ever wanted to be an author, journalist or work for a publisher? Even if you do not think of yourself as a writer, if you are unsure of how to choose an academic course then I hope this blog post might give you some ideas on where to start. Whether you are an undergraduate or a postgraduate, it can be daunting to figure out which university is right for you. Even more so, which degree is the best for you.
I sought out some of NTU’s current second-year BA Creative Writing students – Lauren Morey and Sarah Stamps – and asked them how they made the ultimate decision to pick their course. Lauren told me: ‘I enjoy the people and the little community we have formed, as well as the creativity I get to explore throughout.’
To clarify, the ‘people and the little community’ Lauren refers are her coursemates, and it is therefore no coincidence that there is an entire hub and online community dedicated to her passion. Regarding that passion, she stated: ‘I’m a very creative person and I have always enjoyed writing and I thought that if I am to go into work I may as well enjoy what I do.’
This is a statement that is equally as proudly bold and confident as it is re-affirming, asserting her independence. It is refreshing to hear, as I feel we do need more confidence in young people regarding the degrees they pick.
Sarah’s response is just as genuine. She said: ‘Through my two-year study in sixth form, I found a love for specific aspects within my subjects – English Language and Drama. With drama, I loved script work. I flourished in creating scenes with clever meanings behind them and having complete control over the decisions. I love the range of modules we get to delve into. Though I enjoyed all my modules I was so eager to just focus on Creative Writing and this year I have. I also really appreciate the creative freedom.’
Sarah elaborated on having opportunities within her sixth-form drama work: ‘Having the opportunity to create characters, and study ones in accomplished plays was something I always looked forward to. I also enjoyed Writing creatively in English Language.’
She was not afraid to give a shoutout to her lecturers either, saying: ‘It’s helpful to have complete support in the work I do’.
I also decided to ask both students about their reading and writing routines and aspirations. I first asked which writers influenced their writing.
Lauren was quick to frame her answer by explaining how the writers that influence her have broken boundaries: ‘Writers like, Holly Bourne, Rainbow Rowell, and more recently Patrice Lawrence, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Carol Ann Duffy have shown me the power of women writers in the modern era where they talk about taboo subjects such as feminism, mental health, LGBTQ+ and race and identity.’
In contrast, Sarah’s influences were more from classic literature: ‘A big influence on my writing has always been Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveller’s Wife). She was an artist before delving into the world of writing, and it shows in her books. I have always loved her attention to details and how she can make you feel like you’re in the book with the amount of clear imagery she creates. F. Scott Fitzgerald does the same, and I fell in love with The Great Gatsby the first time I read it.’
She then gave further insight into books she feels have inspired her from childhood: ‘I read Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five series over and over. Her work influences my writing as I always try and create new ideas for stories. It’s easy to have stories with similar plots or characters because it’s what you’re most comfortable writing. However, Blyton always managed to come up with new adventures for her characters. Her work never felt predictable.’
I felt it would be timely, both in a literal context and to potentially help out fellow writers and Creative Writing students, if I asked how both students do their writing and whether they have a routine. Lauren did not shy away from sharing the easy and not so easy aspects and admitted the process can be challenging: ‘Yes and no, this is because I have ideas in and throughout the day but also some days, I don’t have ideas.’
She also added that when she had ideas, she will ‘write them down in my writer’s journal (which we are advised to keep)’ so that she can come back to them when she feels inspired to write.
She saved the best advice for last: ‘If I happen to lack in inspiration or ideas, I take on writing tasks, where I might design a random character or write a narrative using a line from a random page in a book. It depends on the day.’
Sarah’s routine is classic is one I myself use – and I find it works like a charm. She says: ‘I am very old fashioned when it comes to creating pieces. I like to stick to pen and paper before doing anything else. With abstract work like poetry or heavy description pieces, I jot down ideas, singular themes, metaphorical sentences relating to the context, anything that pops in my head.’
She references how her lecturer has taught her to have an active and creative mind, by stating: ‘Through the weekly exercises Andrew Taylor has taught me over the last year and a half, I never have an empty imagination. I like to develop ideas into storylines by using mind maps and writing lists.’
Her last piece of advice is what I imagine would be a good way to get started on your journey into Creative Writing: ‘I always reference back to lectures that look at the character, location and plot development; so, I know not to forget anything. Once I have everything on paper around me, I eventually feel prepared enough to type up the beginning of a piece.’
Zachary Omitowoju is a BA Media Production student at NTU, on placement with Nottingham Creative Writing Hub through the NTU Arts and Humanities-wide ‘Humanities at Work’ module.