Apart from the fact that my university degree in creative writing clearly didn't teach me to use short sentences, it was actually quite useful. While there were one or two writers involved in the process who I would have preferred my HECS debt not to have supported, I would say that it was a fruitful process all together. Here are some things I learned:
- You have to write stuff to be a writer.
- You cannot be precious about deadlines or editing.
- Lots of people who write are much better than me.
- Lots of people who write are much worse than me.
- Lots of people who write improve through writing and talking about writing and reading (including about writing).
- Some people don't (see points 1 and 2 above).
- There is more than one way to write a story.
- Being isolated in a garret is a great way for me personally to go a little bit crazy and depressed and working with other people is a great way for me to be motivated to write more.
- Don't talk about your story too early and don't leave your story too late.
- Your editor doesn't hate you or your work when they make changes.
I expect these are all things I would eventually have learned by myself. I expect it would have taken a much longer time than it would have if I had had to do it all on my own without other writers (both students and teachers) to crash into.
The thing that I would never have learned was how to have confidence to submit my work, to let it go out into the world. Lisa Pryor seems to imply that timid people (and people without the level of income to support taking a year off to devote to writing their novel) shouldn't be writers, because their timidity will show in the writing. She assumes that the writing will then be bad - narrow, limited, boring, derivative and so on. As someone who has taught in a creative writing faculty as well as learned in one, I must say that this is not the case. The timid and shy, those with no confidence, will surprise with sharp wit, amazing risk taking and originality. Frequently the confident and assured are those who will not learn and refuse to explore anything outside their own, narrow area of expertise. Contrary to expectations, they refuse to take risks, because they are confident that they do not need to. End of generalisation.
lf creative writing degrees encourage and support the timid writers, I would say that is enough reason for their continued existence.