Creative writing MOOC: failure to launch

The wonderful International Writers’ Program has a new MOOC running: we’re already on Week 4 of “Power of the Pen: Identities and Social Issues in Fiction and Nonfiction” (a similar themed course follows straight after for poetry and plays). I get excited about these courses because I have had so much fun on their previous MOOCs (documented on this blog). However, this time, I have to report failure to launch. I feel really sad about it. The reasons for this are varied, in increasing order of magnitude and containing, it’s fair to say, a decent amount of pathetic on my part:

  • I find the learning platform hard work: particularly the discussion groups. It’s a real effort navigating around. I still persist with the writer videos because I love them but I’ve abandoned the rest. Bad design + my laziness = fatal combo!
  • I’m not getting a sense of community like before: the groups I joined seem to be people just posting up work seeking comments, nobody was doing any other discussing or chatting or just hanging out. I got lonely! Why didn’t I join different groups? Good question.
  • There’s a mix with non-fiction: nothing against this as a genre – I read plenty – but right now I don’t feel it’s a genre I’m suited to. Having said that, some of the author videos are interesting and inspirational so I’m still watching all those but it almost feels like a distraction, something that can lure me off-course if I let it.
  • My writing is going well: I’m still happily working on my NaNoWriMo novel and it’s coming along nicely. I’m revising and I want to go with that flow…
  • The assignments are too long: not to write, but to read. I won’t submit unless I’m going to review a decent number of other writers’ work but I’ve had enough of slogging through great chunks of work to try to come up with something constructive to say other than bland encouragement with a few hasty recommendations. Of course I want to do more than that – but to review something properly (for me) means printing it out, reading it at least twice, carefully, making notes and formulating a reply. Can I do that for even 3 submissions each week? No. Another key factor for me is not knowing who the writers are – we have no connection. If I know you and you ask me to read your work, I’ll do a damn fine job, but complete strangers? With the best will in the world, it all ends up being a bit superficial.
  • The biggie: the theme of this MOOC is social justice and I am really hopeless at tackling that! Do not mistake this for not caring – I care, I rant, I rave and I protest all I can in real life – but it’s absolutely not what I write about. I write for light relief, for entertainment, for escapism. It’s incompatible with writing about social justice. Of course, social themes will creep into my work but it’s never centre stage. So I’ve stalled on all the assignments and felt ashamed it. Maybe I *ought* to be writing with a social justice angle – this is a call to arms – but I just get paralysed at the idea stage. I do have some themes that are personal to me (write what you know) but I don’t want to explore them or dwell on them. I have a massive sense of being unworthy, over-privileged, blah blah poor me in my little white middle class world…the end of this negative thought trail is complete writing paralysis.

The world is already full of wonderful writers doing all of this WAY BETTER than I ever could or would ever aspire to. Nobody’s going to cry that I’ve given up on the MOOC (still watching the videos, mind) but I feel this time it really wasn’t for me.

Having said all that, I’m DEFINITELY looking forward to the poetry/plays version which follows on – that’s a whole different kettle of fish and I’m going to explore that with fresh hope!


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