One question that consistently comes up in writing forums is “Should I take a class?” However, no one will really know if you should take a class on writing except you, but I will share with you my experience on the matter.
Over the years I have taken about 15 college classes. They included creative writing, poetry, english 101, and english 102. I took them in efforts to earn an AA degree, and creative writing and poetry just seemed like an easy class since I already did that. English 101, and 102 are required to get an AA.
While creative writing and poetry were fun to take, they really didn’t teach me anything. It was intended to teach the structure of a story/poem, how to format, and how to craft a “good” story. The problem with this type of class is that creativity is a subjective thing. If the instructor doesn’t like that type of writing he may fail you just because of style issues. Other teachers will stick to basics, like does the story have a beginning, middle and end, and does it make sense. They are grading form, rather than content. The problem with this approach is that not all stories fit the accepted form. “Dante’s Inferno” has no end, yet it is widely regarded as a classic.
English 101 teaches grammar, and how to format papers for future school work. English 102 goes deeper in-depth on how to research, write, and present a research project. Both of these classes are necessary for any degree, and useful for writing research papers. If you plan to do non-fiction, high research, or technical writing I would highly recommend you take them even if you are not planning on getting a degree.
There were actually several classes that did help me with my writing. I write fiction stories about people, so I took classes that would widen my understanding of people and what makes them tick.
Psychology, anthropology, biology, environmental sciences, history of religions, history of Russia, and history of African-Americans. From each of these classes I learned new things. How people think. How cultures evolve. How history changes cultures. How biology affects people. And even how environment affects people, and people affect environment.
These classes, classes that had absolutely nothing to do with writing, taught me more than any creative writing class ever did. Why? Because I was learning about people, places, and things that I would later be writing about, not just the format of a story.
You can get the same effect by reading non fiction, or watching documentaries. Learn something new and that knowledge will be helping you to write better.
I learned more about what makes a good story from writers workshops. In a workshop you had a lot of people reading and commenting on your work. They have no problem telling you what they do and do not like about it. They will call you out on grammar, spelling, and the content of your story. It is a great way to get good feedback and see where you need to improve.
I always liked the idea of taking a creative writing class in college. I took a class in high school and it was pretty fun. The teacher did always get me and he clearly had no idea how to challenge us, but it was great. You brought up some valid points though in different grading styles and attitudes though so I’ll probably audit any creative writing class I’m interested in before committing to it.
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I agree they can be fun, and if that is all you are taking it for is the experience, then it could actually be a good thing.