The Pros and Cons of Studying Writing

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I am following the careers of two emerging writers who have both gone back to studying at university in their late twenties/early thirties. I did the same thing, studying a master’s degree in writing, starting when I was twenty-seven and finishing when I was thirty. But even though they are both very vocal about writing, publishing and wanting to be writers, they aren’t studying writing. One is studying archaeology and anthropology ten years after gaining a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and the other is studying astronomy after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in criminology.

I find it curious, probably because I’m a literal kind of person. When I decided I wanted to make writing my career, I studied writing. But, of course, there are many paths that can be taken towards becoming a writer. And being a writer while having other specialist knowledge can really expand career opportunities. After all, most writers make most of their money doing things other than writing.

So should you study writing? Should you study something else? Should you study at all? Here are a few things to consider. Continue reading

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Do Writers Need to Study Professional Writing Courses to Become Professionals?

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In 2007, I was studying the final subject in my master’s degree in writing at Swinburne University. The subject was The Writerly Self (don’t ask, I have no idea, not sure if I even understood exactly what the subject was about when I was studying it) and the major assessment piece was a writing journal reflecting on my development as a writer. I really didn’t want to do it. It seemed self-indulgent. It seemed like a waste of the 3,000-5,000 words required.

I proposed, was given permission for and began writing several alternatives including an article with the title, “Can Writing Be Taught?” It was and still is a question perpetually asked in relation to professional writing courses.

At the simplest level, of course writing can be taught. We teach writing to children all throughout their schooling years. But the focus of my article was going to be undergraduate and postgraduate writing studies. What better way to reflect on my development as a writer than to look into the proliferation of bachelor-, graduate certificate-, graduate diploma-, master’s- and PhD-level writing courses, their necessity and their usefulness. Continue reading

Recycled writing: breathing new life into old words

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When I was studying for my master’s degree in writing, each week students were required to write a five hundred word piece on whatever topic was occupying the class at the time. I did eight subjects that were each twelve weeks long, so by the time I graduated, I had ninety-six pieces of writing.

If you’ve read the 2007 writing journal I published on this blog in July, you’ll know that as far back as then I was already thinking about how I could use all those pieces to create a book about writing (with the very unoriginal title “Everything I Know About Writing”). You’ll know I was trying to get out of having to write that writing journal by creating a book about writing. You’ll also know it didn’t work out and I ended up writing the writing journal anyway. But the idea never really went away. Continue reading

Deciding Who or What Makes a Writer: Is It a Worthwhile Use of Our Writing Time?

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Recently in a writing forum, a poster asked the question, “Can saying ‘I’m a writer’ make you a writer? If so, is this a positive or negative trend in the context of preserving the art and craft of writing?” One witty response was, “Can saying ‘I’m a doctor’ make you a doctor?”

Of course, the answer is no. Just asserting the truth of something doesn’t make it true. In almost everything in life, it is our actions that prove who and what we are. Writers write, doctors study for a long time and then use that knowledge to help people get better. Even love, which is difficult to prove in the abstract, is almost always demonstrated in the small, everyday, practical tasks people in love undertake for each other.

So what are the small, everyday, practical tasks writers undertake that make them writers? Continue reading

Is there value in keeping a writing journal?

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I don’t keep a writing journal. It feels like a waste of words. But back in 2007, a writing journal was the required major assessment piece for the final subject in my master’s degree. And not just any writing journal. A writing journal consisting of “a record in about 3,000 to 5,000 words of your development as a writer with particular emphasis on the period of this unit”. (If you’re a regular follower of my blog, you would have spent the July just gone reading it.)

I really didn’t want to write a writing journal. Why use up the time and effort when I could be writing my novel? That’s certainly what I thought at the time. I wrote:

“Writing journals are a waste of time. Five thousand words spent on something I’d rather not be writing. Five thousand words that could comprise 25% of the last 20,000 words I need to write to finish my novel.” Continue reading

Sensationalism and selectivity; now for the facts about the WiseOnes program for gifted children

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Timna Jacks, the Education Reporter for The Age, wrote earlier this week about “a school program for gifted students…offering vaccination exemption forms and urging students to avoid Wi-Fi in schools”. As sensational as the claims were, they also demonstrated a concerning amount of selectivity.

The WiseOnes program has been available to gifted students in primary schools around Victoria for nearly two decades, teaching multi-disciplinary units with exciting names such as Ancient Egypt, How to Mind Your Money , Astronomy, Fibonacci Maths, Basic Engineering and Morphing Dirt to Diamonds. Students need to give evidence of their high thinking ability, which is not related to reading, writing or spelling, and need to “qualify” at a minimum of the 93rd percentile to participate.

Unfortunately, the founder and owner of the program unwisely decided to use the business’s website to convey her personal beliefs about the effects of vaccination and Wi-Fi. However, those beliefs are not shared by the licensees and teachers delivering the program and having contact with the students. The licensees and contracted teachers are all VIT registered and highly experienced.

By conflating the personal views of the founder with the content of the program, Timna Jacks has done a great disservice to the licensees and teachers who have worked with students in small groups providing extra intellectual and educational challenges. The losers will be the children if schools elect to discontinue the program. Continue reading

The Apostrophe Hall of Shame

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For over a year now, I’ve had the words “The Apostrophe Hall of Shame” on my blog post ideas board. So why haven’t I written the post until now? Not for a lack of incorrect uses of apostrophes, that’s for sure.

Actually, it’s the opposite. An abundance of not only apostrophe abuse but also poor spelling and terrible grammar consistently inflicted on the content consuming public. I’ve been so overwhelmed by bad examples that I haven’t known where to even start.

The media are particularly bad examples. Journalism was once the bastion of making sure content was written and spoken correctly. At least if the journalists weren’t getting it right, there were editors to correct their mistakes before the content went public.

Not anymore. And as Fairfax Media announces another 120 jobs to be axed in Sydney and Melbourne and their staff go on strike, I’d be concerned for the editors that remained, if I actually thought there were any. Continue reading