From Margaret Atwood's MasterClass

The Writer’s Path

Margaret reveals the one book she recommends to all writers, and shares inspirational stories from writers past and present to encourage you to persevere despite the obstacles you may confront.

Topics include: Writing Is a Vocation The Gift • Artistic vs. Commercial Success • Don’t Give Up • Take Inspiration From Robert Louis Stevenson • Your Letter to the World • Your Ideal Reader

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Margaret reveals the one book she recommends to all writers, and shares inspirational stories from writers past and present to encourage you to persevere despite the obstacles you may confront.

Topics include: Writing Is a Vocation The Gift • Artistic vs. Commercial Success • Don’t Give Up • Take Inspiration From Robert Louis Stevenson • Your Letter to the World • Your Ideal Reader

Margaret Atwood

Teaches Creative Writing

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Preview

I don't think the writing life is like deciding you're going to be a lawyer or a dentist. It's not that kind of a decision. I think it's something that you already-- you're already on that path before you know it and you discover it. If you have to stand back and say should I be a writer or should I not be a writer, if you're doing that, then the answer is probably I should not be. When I was starting to write, none of us thought we were going to have careers. We thought we were going to have vocations which is quite a different thing. So our idea of being a writer was not, you know, a six figure contract. It was the garret in Paris with the absinthe and the tuberculosis and being penniless and unknown but dedicating yourself to your art. That was our idea in that generation. People get news of the occasional writer who gets this fabulous contract. And they think that that's the norm. But it isn't. The norm is that most writers don't make a living out of their writing. Don't forget that many well-known writers had other jobs. And I just always assumed I would have another job. I didn't think I was going to have a career as a writer. That did happen, but it wasn't anything I ever thought. And there weren't any manuals of instruction about how to manage your career challenges, because let's face it. It's not easy. It's not an easy life. It's like people who want to be an actor. Do they know how hard that is? You have to really want it. You can make writing into a business, if what you want to write is cookie cutter books. You can do that. You can write certain kind of genre fiction that has a template. And the publishers of it will tell you how to do that. And in that case, it's not a question of career challenges, it's just a question of ticking the boxes. First kiss on page 32. Having a tiff on page 57. First sex scene on page-- and that's how those things are done. But I'm assuming that's not necessarily the kind of writing that you yourself want to do. We're going to talk now about Lewis Hyde's book "The Gift," which is the only book I ever recommend to aspiring writers. There are a lot of books that will tell you how to write. There are a lot of books that will tell you how that author has approached writing. "The Gift" is not about that. It's not even about writing in particular, although it started because Lewis Hyde said to himself, I'm a poet why aren't I rich. So he kicks off from that. And he explores the idea-- which is true-- that there are two ways of exchanging things in our society, but only one of them is ever usually discussed. And the one that is usually discussed is the commercial one. You give money, you get the commodity. The other way is gift giving. And the set of rules for gift giving are different. So an artistic creation of any kind, whether it's a painting, whether it's music, whether it's a book, they have to move through the commodity economy that turns into a book that you buy in a stor...

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.

Reviews

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

Love her books, excited to get writing and see what stories her class helps me get down on paper.

I had already written the first draft of my novel before I began this Masterclass. As I have edited my novel and rewritten it, this Masterclass has taught me how to add depth to it (my novel), to make it real, etc. Simply, this Masterclass has taught me how to improve my writing in many, many ways.

So inspiring! I skipped around because I am not a novelist, but write other forms and am a hug fan of Ms. Atwood. She is fantastic! Thank you so much, I am so happy to have heard some of her wisdom.

I LOVED LISTENING TO MARGARET ATWOOD, I FOUND HER VOICE, HER STYLE, KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM USEFUL, INSPIRING AND UP LIFTING. THANK YOU MARGARET.

Comments

Gareth S.

I think I liked this lesson most of all. I loved the idea of the secret library

Caetlin W.

I especially enjoyed learning about the origin of Treasure Island. It was really interesting, and, as a writer, I felt personally wounded when I heard that the publisher lost the map. I just couldn't believe it! Beyond this, I also liked how she revealed that Robert Louis Stevenson got writer's block. We don't usually think of famous authors getting writer's block. It seems like that is just a problem for those of us who are still learning. But this lesson shows us that everyone is still learning. Even Margaret Atwood is still discovering new things such as the future library project. As she said, written works are for future readers, but this project takes that even further. There is no way to know what a future reader would find interesting 100 years from now, so it is impossible to write for him. We just have to write for ourselves and hope it reaches the right reader.

Rosie

I think this lesson gives you hope and is also re-assuring that we are all on an adventure. Sometimes it's hard to imagine your audience, but they must be in some way like yourself. I am pleased to have found such an inspiring and forward thinking class.

Sandra K.

“There’s no inevitability in the world of art.” One of the best quotes in this chapter. Thank you MA!

Haily

I appreciate Margaret's humor and her serious yet realistic messages. I love her sense of humor. Mainly though, I'm at my desk listening, watching and appreciative of the fact that a world-class, talented artist is teaching me (and the rest of us) techniques as well as advising us on how we can manage our writing lives.

Melissa M.

I think I liked this lesson most of all. I kept going back to listen to certain parts over again. I like her honesty, that writing is a hard road, and after much work, we may not get published. I like to think positively, but she's right. I also like, that she says not to give up. Her information about Treasure Island was very interesting!

Kristi B.

The research piece is fascinating (and funny)! I could listen to this all day.

Anita M.

My question is if no publisher accepts how does one know whether the manuscript is any good. and when I read about 20 rejections, I think i don't even know twenty publishers to whom one can send unsolicited manuscripts. And the major worry is suppose I am a mediocre writer., then might as well desist. A magnificent tree should not be cut to print mediocrity. Yet with two unpublished manuscripts, I am starting to write a third one. It was a relief to hear Atwood mention that writing is hard work and that she too changed beginnings and revised repeatedly. On a lighter note, loved the room in which Atwood sat!

Patt S.

Another fabulous lesson from Ms. Atwood, and I love the idea of The Future Library of Norway.

Maria S.

Another wonderful lesson. I think it's good to be reminded that we should write independent of any commercial value that can be attached to the end product. I loved the idea of the secret library; it's a bit like sending a message in a bottle.