Although I’ve written stories since I was a kid, I’ve never felt the need to take a course in writing.
I studied English until second year of university, and there were elements of creative writing throughout school, but the main focus was always on work by other people.
This was never really an issue for me because I’ve always maintained that you learn by doing, so I spend a lot of my time reading, writing and then reading and writing a bit more. Then watching fifteen episodes of 30 Rock back to back with a pot of tea.
However, lately I’ve been wondering whether there might not be a couple of problems with this approach. Beavering away writing books and stories and blog posts and articles is all good practice, or so they say – but how do you know what you’re doing right or wrong? Practice is supposed to make perfect, but what if your writing practice is buttock clenchingly awful? What if, by going it alone, I’m simply conditioning myself to carry on making the same mistakes over and over again?
It’s a bit disconcerting to think that by never taking a course or joining a writing group, I may be depriving myself of all important feedback from people who know what they’re doing. What if the nuggets of wisdom from total strangers will turn me into some kind of literary genius, but I’m too daft to go and collect them?
Thing is, if I were to suddenly get proactive and go looking for the constructive criticism I probably need, who would I ask? I feel bad asking friends, honour bound to say yes with that sinking feeling that they will then have to spend hours of their own precious time mired in my nonsense when they could be drinking mojitos or learning how to Charleston. But I don’t feel like I know any professionals well enough to approach them with this. Oh yeah, and half the time I don’t actually get things to the point where I can send them to people, because I spend my editing and rewriting time blogging about how I don’t know who to send my unfinished work to.
It’s a first world problem of tedious proportions, but nevertheless I’m starting to think a class might help. If I do a writing course, I will presumably get sensible feedback from a) a professional and b) a group of peers; helping me to improve to a point where they might even be happy to vouch for me. I won’t have to bother my loved ones, and I know from experience that structured classes focus the mind better than willpower alone.
As I don’t have the resources to go and do something full time, I’m currently pondering enrolling in an evening class. I’ve talked myself in and out of it four times now, for reasons that are mostly incarnations of “I dunno if it’ll be a good use of my time or not.” £85 (the price of 10 evening classes on The Art and Craft of Children’s Writing at The University of Edinburgh, as my frinstance) feels like a lot to spend if it turns out not to be useful – but it’s pretty cheap if it helps me to move forward rather than sitting here whinging.
What say you, internet? Have you ever taken a writing class? Did you find it helpful?