My Take

If you want to be a writer, just write

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2015, 1:05am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2015, 1:05am

I have no idea why there is so much brouhaha about City University cancelling a Master of Fine Arts programme in creative writing. The fight is primarily one between the university's administrators and the programme's teachers. Obviously, the teachers lost but is there a legitimate public interest in their cause? Judging by the degree of public attention, it seems many people think so.

They say our city ought to value art, so the two-year course shouldn't be cancelled (see our op-ed page today). Perhaps, but the second part does not follow from the first part. Moreover, if we don't have an undergraduate degree in creative writing, and thank God we don't, why should we have a master's degree?

It strikes me it would be more honest to classify such optional academic programmes as non-degree diploma courses as they do, for example, at Baptist University. But then, it wouldn't look so good on your CV, would it? After all, students were paying HK$181,350 for two years in the programme.

I am old school. I never went to journalism school but did teach in one for a short time. That didn't change my opinion one bit. As far as I am concerned, you learn the ropes on the job, the same as filmmaking and creative writing. You become a writer by writing and reading; you become a filmmaker by making movies.

Journalism school is fairly useless for those who would become journalists. Call me cynical but it's actually most useful for people who work in jobs that require a lot of dealings with the media: public and corporate relations, lobbying and government services. You need to know how the enemy works.

Defenders say J-schools have produced great journalists, just as film schools have produced graduates like legendary directors George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, and creative writing programmes with the likes of Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro.

Well, as they say, correlation is not causation. I have zero doubt that those luminaries would have become who they are today without attending artsy schools. Such schooling at best speeded up the process and taught them techniques they would have acquired on their own anyway. But in the larger scheme of things, it would have made no difference.