From Margaret Atwood's MasterClass

Getting Started as a Writer

Margaret encourages you to find your own path, overcome obstacles like fear, and start writing by sharing her own writer’s story and creative process.

Topics include: How I Became a Writer • My Writing Process • Finding Your Own Process • Getting Past the Fear


Margaret encourages you to find your own path, overcome obstacles like fear, and start writing by sharing her own writer’s story and creative process.

Topics include: How I Became a Writer • My Writing Process • Finding Your Own Process • Getting Past the Fear

Margaret Atwood

Teaches Creative Writing

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Well, I became a writer partly I think because I was a very early reader. And I was a very early reader because I grew up in the North Woods, and there were no other forms out there. So no radio, no television, no theater, no cinema, no electricity, and no running water, but there were books. We weren't in a village. We weren't in a town. We were actually out in the woods. Except for the winters, we would go back to a city. So other children might be afraid of being lost amongst the trees, et cetera. I was afraid of flush toilets. What was going on there? Why did things just vanish? I was an early writer. I wrote comics, and I wrote little stories, and I wrote my first novel when I was seven. It was about an ant. It was not a great success, but it was illustrated. And then I lost interest in writing. I wanted to be a painter. One of my first entrepreneurial activities was a puppetry business in high school. We ran birthday parties for five-year-olds, and the puppet shows were always about those things that are dear to the hearts of five-year-olds, namely cannibalism. So they were the classics. They were the "Three Little Pigs." They were "Little Red Riding Hood," and they were "Hansel and Gretel." And I started riding seriously again when I was 16. Then I really wanted to be a writer. And I thought maybe I would go to journalism school, and I was discouraged from that by being told that if I was a female working for a newspaper, I would be writing nothing but the obituaries and the fashion pages. This was the '50s. So then I thought I would run away to Paris, live in a garret, drink absinthe, smoke cigarettes, write masterpieces, die young. But first, I would go to English language and literature, because I might conceivably end up as a teacher before jumping off the bridge. Then I ended up going to graduate school at Harvard, which was proposed to me as being better than being a waitress. I would get more writing done that way I was told by those who were humoring me. And I did have one of my advisors say that I should just forget about this writing and graduate school business and find a good man and get married. But I paid no attention to that. So by this time, I was already publishing in small literary magazines, and I was already writing the same kinds of things that I have continued to write, namely poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and roughly speaking, dramatic works. So I continued doing those things in the world of little magazines and small publishing, and I published my first book of poetry in 1966. I made the cover myself out of letraset the little red dots that you put on legal contracts. That book of poetry won the only literary prize that was going in Canada at that time. And I got a letter from one of the few publishing companies that then existed saying they heard that I had a novel. Well, I did have a novel. It was my second novel. My first had come to nothing, but the second one I had actually sent t...

The art of powerful storytelling

Called the “Prophet of Dystopia,” Margaret Atwood is one of the most influential literary voices of our generation. In her first-ever online writing class, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale teaches how she crafts compelling stories, from historical to speculative fiction, that remain timeless and relevant. Explore Margaret’s creative process for developing ideas into novels with strong structures and nuanced characters.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

So lovely to hang out with Margaret Atwood on this course. I particularly like how she didn't set a lot of rules.

Absolutely loved the class taught by Margaret Atwood. Loved the way she talked and gave us so much valuable information and tips. Highly recommend!

It's honour to watch Margaret Atwood class. I enjoyed her style of her lessons. I learned a lot. Now it's time to practice her recommendations. Thanks to masterclass team for this wonderful opprtunity.

Time will tell. I sure enjoyed every minute of Margaret Atwood, she is delightful!


Rhonda W.

I checked out the links provided in the workbook for this lesson and really enjoyed the Lit Hub selections from writers on writing. Some great advice to accompany Atwood's.

Samantha C.

This has made me realise there's no one right way of doing things, which is great because I've always thought I'm writing the 'wrong' way by not starting with an idea! Characters always come first to me, and it's nice to know that's not necessarily wrong!

Cheryl-ann M.

It was good to hear different ways of constructing your story. I feel more comfortable with what I am doing now. I can be doing my daily walk and suddenly come up with a scene, that maybe is five scenes away from what I am currently writing, or I suddenly read something at the Air museum where I volunteer, so I put down a new draft chapter, or sometimes, I am going back over something in a previous chapter, and I think, far out, how come I missed this point and I quickly go back and draft it into the appropriate spot.


My gosh, she is incredible! She makes me feel like my way is the right way for me, and that it’s ok. Invaluable information.


I never really thought I was afraid of something--I've been writing so much for so long and I tell all the people around me about it. But this lesson showed that there really is one thing I am afraid of--showing my work to the world. The advice offered here has shown me a more direct approach I want to take without skirting around what makes me nervous.

Kathryn W.

I am re-visiting this lesson for the second or possibly third time. I don't have too much trouble getting words on the page, but I do have the anxiety that they're not the right ones. I am currently editing my manuscript - I have lost count of how many edits I have done - but this lesson is helpful in that it encourages you to be honest about your writing and why you want to write, and to face up to what you have/haven't written.

A fellow student

Thank you for the encouragement. I am "writing on the page" and moving forward.

Gareth S.

I loved the advice about fear. That was a truly enjoyable lesson. I enjoyed the lesson very much, her lively expressiveness is endearing.

Lois C.

I found Margaret Atwood's stories of her early writing life charming, but I am in later life, so can't replicate her path! When she talked about getting words on the page and fear that might be preventing that, that was helpful. I loved her notion of re-visioning rather than 'revising' which I have found wearisome in the past. Thinking of it as revisioning I believe will make a difference.

A fellow student

I too found the link broke, but after reading the response I downloaded the complete workbook and appreciate the additional resources and assignments. "No one knows where ideas come from." Atwood talks about immersing yourself and out of immersing yourself ideas will come.