Are Creative Writing Classes Worth it?
Ever considered taking a creative writing class but then wondered if it’s worth the time and money?
Ever thought that you could just learn everything you need about writing from a book?
Ever wondered just what creative writing classes teach anyway?
While I can’t speak for every writer or every creative writing class, I’ve studied my far share of writing. I’ve got a BA and an MA in creative writing, and regularly take part in classes at the local writers’ studio.
With writing, there’s always more to learn, and the best way to do this is by engaging with other writers.
Just what can you learn?
There are classes out there on every aspect of writing if you know where to look. I’ve taken part in everything from crime writing to writing and the media to how to make money with your writing.
Universities, libraries, even schools are the best places to look. If your local library or university doesn’t have anything, the chances are they’ll be able to point you in the right direction. The closer you are to a big city, the more opportunities you’ll have.
But it’s important to know why you want to do the course. What do you want to get out of it?
If you don’t go into a course with a clear aim and reason for taking it, then you are wasting your time and money.
For example, when I signed up to Shreya Sen Handley‘s Writing Your Way into the Media course, I wanted help with the traditional side of media and publishing. This is something I don’t have much experience in, but wanted to branch out into as a way to boost my audience. Doing the course also helped me to hone my voice and further cement the direction of this blog, and we had some great discussions about social media and marketing.
You can never guarantee what you’ll get out of any course that you take. But I’ve gotten something out of every course I’ve taken, and there has been many.
The one that impacted me the most was Joanna Penn‘s How to Make a Living with Your Writing. While I don’t make a living with my writing, it inspired me to pursue the self-publishing route, and for that I will always be grateful.
Can’t I just learn it from a book?
Books are great. They can do many things. But they can’t critique your writing.
A good writing class will not only give you the tools to write better, but it will teach you how to use those tools too.
Most writing classes will include writing exercises (or homework!), then will go through your work at the end or a later date. You’ll be required to either print out or read out your work, then your teacher and your peers will discuss what they liked and disliked, and give you pointers on how to improve.
Receiving feedback can be scary, but it’s the best way to improve your writing. The harsher the feedback, the more they care—it shows they want your piece to be the best that it can be. The only way it can be this is by pushing you.Receiving feedback is the best way to improve your writing. Click To Tweet
What to look for
The more you can find out about the course tutor before you sign up, the better.
The best classes are taught by experienced writers who can back up what they’re saying with published books and student referrals.
If it’s a course on selling books and they’ve only sold 100, they’re not the best person to be teaching that class.
It is not a case of those who can, do, those who can’t, teach.
The best writers do spend most of their time writing, but they also want to share their knowledge of writing too.
That’s why Stephen King wrote On Writing; that’s why Carol Ann Duffy teaches at Manchester Met.
Most writers are more than willing to share their knowledge; all you have to do is ask.Most writers are more than willing to share their knowledge; all you have to do is ask. Click To Tweet
What to avoid
If you come across an empty or vague course description, AVOID.
AVOID AVOID AVOID.
If the description is vague, it’s likely the course will be, too.
What sold me to my creative writing MA was that they went into detail on their website about what each module was about, and how the class were also expected to put together an anthology as part of the course. This would be (for most) their first published work.
Surprisingly, it’s not something that all creative writing BAs or MAs do, despite the process teaching many skills that are needed for not just the writing and publishing industries, but the workplace as well.
If someone tries to tell you how great they are at something but can’t prove why they’re great, spend your money elsewhere.
How much is too much?
Like everything in life, the more you pay, the more value you’re likely to get out of something.
Writing classes can cost anything from a few pounds to a few thousand pounds.
How much you’re prepared to spend is up to you. Generally speaking, the longer the course is, the more expensive it is. The longer the course is, the more knowledge you’ll get from it and the more likely you are to form a relationship with your teacher at the end. This relationship could be invaluable to you later on. It can lead to everything from guest posts on your blog to publication in magazines, so keep in touch with those who’ve taught you.
Networking is everything in the writing world.Networking is everything in the writing world. Click To Tweet
So are creative writing classes worth it?
- You’re willing to put the time and effort in—there may be homework!
- You can afford it
- You know what you want to get out of it
- Your teacher knows what they’re talking about (be sure to do your research!)
- You keep an open mind
Over to You
What are your experiences with creative writing classes? Do you find them worthwhile? I’d love to hear how you feel in the comments!