Sunday, 28 February 2010

It's not about the Numbers

In the last week I have been thinking a lot about what the Creative Writing MA actually means to me. I am generally a person who is very hard on myself. I don't like doing badly or being mediocre at anything - and with regards to studying of any kind that equates to less than top marks. I generally drive myself quite hard when I am doing any kind of course and more often than not this shows in the marks that I receive - for instance I got a first for my degree, which, of course I was very pleased with, but I am aware that I would have disappointed to have got anything less than a first. I am finding the MA though, much more difficult and am coming to realize that I may have to settle for lower marks than I am used to.

This is as it should be. An MA is meant to be harder and this is one of the reasons that I chose to do it _ I wanted a challenge. I am also up against stiffer competition so to speak - the standard of writing is very high - this is a good thing and it forces me to raise my own game and work that bit harder. We are also made to look much more critically and rigorously at our work, to unpick it and look harder at what the words are doing, what we are conveying (or trying to convey). We are required to look closer at our writing and re-examine the minute particulars - whether our metaphors are working, whether we are using mixed metaphors and looking in depth at whether our words are really working in the poem, whether they have earned their place. I realized today when I was looking back over the work that I handed in last term that I am really beginning to take this new level of self-critique on board and I found myself looking at the poems with much more critical eyes and picking out the places where they are not quite working.

I wish though, that the first set of marks didn't count towards the final marks of the MA. I feel like I have learnt so much in such a small space of time, and looking at my poetry and my essay from last term I feel like I could have done so much better. Of course this is all part of the great learning curve and there are one or two poems from last term that I am still happy with and I had some very positive feedback from my tutors. I felt towards the end of that first term that I was just beginning to break out of my self-imposed containment field and was beginning to write in a freer and more expansive way and I am hoping that this will continue for the foreseeable future. I guess the main problem for me is getting past the problem of whether or not I will get top marks. I need to focus on the fact that I am doing a course I love and that I am learning so much and so quickly - I only wish that the MA lasted two years instead of one!

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