Linda Maye Adams

Creative Writing Classes–Good or Bad?


I learned how to write pretty much by reading novels.  I started writing when I was eight, so I didn’t even think about writing how-to books or classes.  Heck, all I needed to do was imitate what I was reading.  But in junior high, a creative writing class popped up.  My best friend, who had gotten me started on writing, was able to to sign up for it; my guidance counselor turned me down flat.  Said I wasn’t “capable of handling it.”  Oddly, after that class, my best friend lost interest in writing.  I don’t know if the hand of fate was watching me that day, though it was very upsetting at the time.

So when a creative writing class turned up in high school, I jumped at it.  The school also had a creative writing contest, and I entered a short story about a serial killer.  It, of course, didn’t win anything.  The teacher, David Wetterberg, encouraged me to go in directions that I was a little bit more familiar with (write what you know).  He was a good year, and I learned a lot about writing from him.   The next year, I picked up three prizes in the contest, and won yet another the following year.

In college, I signed up for a writer’s roundtable in college, thinking this had to be helpful, too.  The teacher required us to read a text he’d self-published and pretty much sat back while the students in the class went after each other.  We had one guy who was quite literal–I was doing stuff that was actually remarkably similar to Hercules (modern humor in historical stories), and he attacked me because it wasn’t realistic.  He also hated poetry and attacked a woman’s poem.  She left the room sobbing, never to return.  The teacher just sat there and watched.  Not a shining example.

I’ve since had a few workshops of the hour variety, some locally and some at writer’s conferences.  Some have been interesting, some have been mildly helpful, and others have been’ “Eh.”  With the advent of self-publishing, I’ve learned to look at the credentials of the person giving the workshop.  I ran across an 88-7ear old writing organization for my state and was thinking of joining it.  They had a lot of great workshops, but exploring them further, I discovered that all of them were being given by self-published authors of fiction (from one particular company that has a poor reputation).  They were talking on subjects like “How to Publish Your Novel” of which they clearly had no experience.  No.  Seriously no.

Now I’d stay away from a writing class because my writing process is too much out of the norm.  It’d be very difficult getting into a class where we had to produce a story one particular way and it was a way that worked against how I write.

What are your writing class experiences?

2 Comments

  1. Well, creative writing at my secondary school was just a shoulder-patting exercise. Lots of being told you’d done very well and you were all very talented, but not even a hint that storytelling was a craft, with conventions and rules, and here are some ways you can try to get better… whereas we had some of the most exacting (and patient) art and music teachers I’ve ever heard of!

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  2. I have a creative writing major, and so in college I took several different writing classes/workshops. One professor apparently graded on how well you edited your work after getting everyone’s feedback (I think? He never really told us why we got the grades we did). I am a perfectionist with my writing and don’t like people to read it until it’s the best I can get it, so I didn’t get a lot of constructive feedback and didn’t think I needed to change much–so I got a B even though everyone, including him, liked my work. (Still bitter.) I had other classes that were very helpful, though. I’m not in any writing group now, but am thinking of getting into one. I hesitate because of my perfectionism, though I love to help other writers with their work.

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