As a practice creative writing is, to say the least, under-appreciated in France. It is a discipline that thrives in other countries, though it is largely ignored inside our borders. As if here it were fractured into two different activities: on the one hand, academic writing which is valued for its structure, and on the other: creative writing which is sidelined, and supposedly does not lead to a full-time job. Hopefully, the trend is slowly changing.
The model, or what is happening next door:
In other countries, creative writing has been introduced in schools and universities as a new way to learn and develop oneself. As an Erasmus student I have spent time at an Irish university and participated in two different approaches: a class entitled literary composition and a student group: The Writer’s Society, both based on the concept of creative writing. At the university level, creative writing is encouraged as teachers push their students to learn how to write stories and to expand their vocabulary in a non-academic way while in an academic atmosphere; students also devote some of their (free) time to practicing and discussing writing among themselves. This way, students learn to be creative as well as structured.
French advances towards creative writing:
Inspired by the emergence of creative writing courses abroad, the French have also changed their habits and feelings towards writing at the university level. As of 2016, a few Masters programs have opened their doors, as well as a « Doctorat Pratique et Théorie de la Création littéraire et artistique » being created at the Aix-Marseilles University. Thus creative writing is slowly being developed and accepted in French universities.
Creative but not only:
Creative writing is not only a means to help students unleash their creative side and feel more comfortable when writing in and about everyday life, but has also been proven to improve language learning. At our very own university, creative writing has been used as a new approach to mastering a foreign language. For the past eight years, it has been a part of the English studies, implemented by Sara Greaves and Marie-Laure Schultze, both researchers teaching at Aix-Marseille University. Their workshops are designed to offer an alternative method to learning and practicing English by appealing to the student’s imagination and feelings. The dissociation of form and meaning has a way of “revitalizing language relationships” and thus improving writing skills1. By writing in a creative way instead of an academic one, students have to adjust their skills to make the language their own and open themselves to the otherness of the tongue (2015). The creative writing classes taking place at the AMU operate at the nexus between language, literature and translation classes.
Creative writing at an academic level is more than just an asset: it is a flourishing discipline, helping students with their personal writing as well as academic writing, and has also proven to be very effective in language learning, which still has a long way to go and much more to offer.
1Greaves & Schultze, 2012