The value of creativity

Creative writing is not a luxury—having imaginative, literate people is of fundamental value to the social and economic wellbeing of society.

Rearrange these letters above to create something no one else has written before

There they are. Twenty-one consonants and five vowels. What happens if you rearrange them? That’s when they can become more than twenty-six familiar symbols. They can convey ideas, tell stories, describe characters and situations. They can be anything you want them to be. Something that never existed, until you thought of it.

The International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington is where writers play with the alphabet and find their unique voices. Victoria is New Zealand’s globally ranked capital city university. By inspiring and developing art, music and writing, we cultivate creative capital.

Why study creative writing?

Professor Damien Wilkins is an award-winning writer of fiction, short stories and poetry. “The key thing about being a writer is that you’re a reader first,” he says. “That relationship is often how people get into writing in the first place.”

He says the International Institute of Modern Letters has contributed significantly over the last 30 years to a great legacy of New Zealand writing. “We’ve had a Booker Prize winner and another finalist studying here recently—that creates a sense of excitement for people to join the creative writing programme and know it’s about more than just getting a qualification—it’s about becoming a writer and doing it seriously.”

The value of creativity to the economy

Professor Wilkins believes there’s a strong economic argument for the value of creative pursuits. “In lots of fields across the public sector and the corporate world, being able to use language rigorously and expansively and being able to read and think critically are great skills to have. I don’t see creative writing as a ‘luxury item’ in the economy—it’s fundamental to the wellbeing of society that we have imaginative, literate and literary people making a contribution.”

Asking the big questions

“A lot of New Zealand writers are thinking very hard about questions which we should all be thinking about—what does a society look like, what are its values, what are its stories that haven’t been told before, and who are the people we haven’t heard from”, says Damien. “I think that’s why our writers contribute to an idea of true democracy—literature feeds into questions about where we are going, who we are.”

To find out more

If you have any questions about creative writing at Victoria, contact: