Michelle Wittle On Creative Writing Classes

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

It is a strange misconception that people think creative writing classes are bad things. If Yoda and I had a dollar for every time we heard someone say that creative writing classes are dumb and you can’t teach someone to be creative, I would be living in London and Yoda…well, who knows what he would be doing. As a Jedi master, I don’t think money really impresses him, so maybe he will just give it to me. Or maybe he would get out of Dagobah. I don’t know…we don’t discuss those kinds of things. But, I digress.


People tend to look at taking writing classes as a person not being a good enough writer. I will agree that I don’t think talent can be taught. You are either a writer or you aren’t a writer. There is only so much a person can teach another and at some point, independent thought has to come into the picture. However, I don’t agree that writing classes are bad. Sure, you can have a bad teacher. The idea of having a set time and place with like-minded people around you all wanting to write is a great thing. On more then one occasion I have discussed the importance of others reading your work to help you and having a set schedule. So is it any wonder that I am for writing classes?


Think of it this way, if you were a musician and all you ever learned was how to do tabs (just putting your fingers on strings on a guitar and using the frets as your guide) the only thing you could do was play other people’s songs. You might have a gifted ear and you can pick out notes in a song or maybe hear something once then play it yourself, but if you never learn the fundamentals and you never progress, you will just be a person playing others music and not a musician. The same is true for writing. You can have all these great ideas, but if you don’t learn to sharpen them and expand them, all you are is a person with great ideas.


Classes are a time for you to experiment and make mistakes. Teachers give homework so you can practice. You get to try on different genres and learn new techniques. You can learn the new trends in writing and you have an audience to help you work out the kinks in your work.


I think people just don’t understand what a creative writing class is like and therefore they just think a teacher is just telling you to be creative. It isn’t like that at all. You try on different forms. People help you see things in your writing you couldn’t see so quickly on your own. You get to see if that joke you attempted your character to say really works or not.


Do I think classes are necessary? Yes, at some point, all writers need to go to school for it (even Sylvia Plath took classes…she met Anne Sexton in a poetry class and became good writing friends with her and the class was taught by Robert Lowell). The writing field is big and small. It’s big when you are starting out and it gets smaller when you find your place in it. It is important for writers to have a place to make mistakes and learn so when they find where they belong, they will feel comfortable knowing they earned the right to be there.


So, the next time someone tells you taking a creative writing class is stupid and a waste, you can quote my blog or send them to this page (I can straighten them out). Or if you are the more passive aggressive type, just smile and nod your head at them. Then pick up your notebook and pen and go to class knowing that people won’t always understand writers and why we do the things we do, but then it isn’t really for them to understand us either.   


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