Lucy Grace writes fiction often related to the climate and environment. She has work published in Aesthetica, Mslexia, Bristol Prize, Bridport, Reflex, Scottish Arts Club, Berlin Writing Prize, Alpine Writing Prize, Arachne Press, EllipsisZine and others. In 2021 she won the Blue Pencil Pitch Prize and is longlisted for the Bath Novel Award and the Mslexia Novel Award.
Is an MA in creative writing necessary to write creatively?
Obviously, it isn’t, but for me there is one thing above all that the MA provides, and that is time. I know that sounds perverse – sign up for tuition and lectures and travelling and assignments and you’ll have more time, not less – but as anyone who tries to find time to write knows, life gets in the way.
Let me phrase it differently. Undertaking the MA hasn’t given me more time, but it has legitimised the time I put aside for writing. As a parent with a house and a job this is important. I’ve reframed the time at the edges of the day as ‘work’ time. This isn’t a luxury or something to be shunted to the side if a wash needs putting on, or a teenager requires a lift to the next village, this is now ‘work’. Important. Immoveable. Uninterruptable.
It didn’t come easily at first. It required basic training of the troops (‘No, I can’t come and look at your elbow scab in the bath, I’m in a Zoom lecture’, and ‘No, I won’t be in after school but Grandad will be here and he’ll make your tea’). I also developed the skill of ignoring my inner voice (‘There’ll be more good drying weather tomorrow after the assignment deadline at 2pm,’ and ‘Surely dry cereal counts as a dessert in a packed lunch, tell the dinner ladies it’s fine’). Admittedly, this last part was deemed widely acceptable by the youngest member of the household who already believes dry cereal to be a food group.
The partner in crime to time is money, and this is where I was very fortunate. Nottingham Trent University worked with UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature to offer a full scholarship and book tokens to a local writer who could not afford to undertake an MA in Creative Writing. The John Harwood Bosworth Creative Writing Bursary was provided by a local family who wished to provide support. There was a competitive application and in September 2020 I was thrilled to discover I was successful. https://nottinghamcityofliterature.com/blog/announcing-the-recipient-of-the-john-harwood-bosworth-creative-writing-bursary
Without the scholarship I would not have been able to afford a place on the course. It is almost a year since I began and I’m learning so much about the world of writing and the world beyond. The assignments have reignited my previous interests in geology and geography, and also sparked new ones such as deep time and the anthropocene. There are Zoom lectures advertised via email from other departments which I regularly log into and learn something completely new. There are three incredible libraries with very helpful staff and an efficient ‘find my book’ feature. Despite living far from the city, I have discovered a lovely spot in Brackenhurst Library where I can work quietly all day. Last month I met my scholarship donors for the first time. I was pleased to be able to say thank you to them, and to share the news that I have achieved a distinction in all four assignments so far and am discussing with NTU the possibility of undertaking a PhD.
So back to the question. In summary, no, an MA isn’t necessary to be able to write creatively. But carving out time to write is. It is both a luxury and a delight to be able to spend time writing, however one makes that possible. In my case, it is solely down to the Harwood-Bosworth family’s precious gift of time. I believe what goes around, comes around, and I intend one day to be able to pay it forward, to another writer in need.