Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Writing Classes: Are They Worth the Investment?

Have you considered taking a writing class, but not been sure if that option was right for you? Today, my guest Kate Willson outlines the pros and cons.
Writing Classes: Are They Worth the Investment?
Throughout my years of working as a freelance writer, I've seen countless authors, bloggers, and professional writers jump into heated discussions and debates over whether or not writing is a natural gift, or if it is something that must be honed and developed through years of hard work and intrinsic learning.

I doubt we'll ever see an end to this age-old debate, but nevertheless, I strongly believe that it can't hurt to learn more about the art of writing from time to time. That said, I've found that writing classes have tremendously helped a great deal of my writing colleagues and acquaintances. If you're looking to improve your writing work, enrolling in a writing class might be a viable option to consider.  Here are some of the pros and cons of enrolling in writing classes.

Pro: Time set aside for writing
When I was a young writer, I used to bemoan the fact that I never had time to write for fun since my newspaper job took up most of my creative energy. With writing classes, however, you'll have a designated amount of time set aside to do your personal writing. If you have been putting off writing a book, poem, or short story, you'll finally have a time to do so in your writing classes! Most of the writing classes you'll take require you to spend a lot of time writing solely for fun, so you'll not only be practicing your craft, you'll also be knocking out those side projects you've been putting off for much too long.

Pro: Practice makes better
No, practice doesn't make perfect; it does, however, make better. One of the greatest pros of enrolling in writing classes is the opportunity to stretch your writing bones and improve your craft.  Each and every day you spend learning about writing, you're not only learning more about the ins and outs of professional writing, you're also improving your body of work. So, if anything, writing classes give you the opportunity to spend practicing your writing skills. And as all seasoned writers know, practice is essential to becoming better.

Pro: Opportunity to network
As I'm sure you're already aware, professors are some of the most helpful resources a student can utilize. During informal writing classes, however, you should try to network with both your professors and fellow students. I know what you must be thinking: "How can fellow students help me? Aren't they in the same boat as me?" Well, keep in mind, since you're taking a professional writing class, you're going to be surrounded by a room full of students who, like you, are already immersed in the writing world. Therefore, they can be of help to you both in and out of writing class. In fact, you can reach out to your fellow students and professors whenever you need help on a project, need a work reference, or need some on-the-side writing jobs.

Con: It's difficult to tell if you're choosing the right course
Writing courses come in all different shapes and sizes. That said, it's difficult to know whether or not you're choosing the right writing course based on your specific needs. You might see courses like "Fiction Writing 101," "How to Write a Book in 30 Days," "Short Stories," and more, but it's tough to tell based on a class's name whether or not it's right for you. A great way to avoid this problem is to go ahead and learn more about the specific class. Call the school, organization, group, or association that is offering the course and ask for some more insight into the class itself, such as the number of students typically enrolled, the qualifications of the professor, any assignments you'll complete during the course, who usually enrolls in the class, and anything else you want to know. Another important factor to pay attention to is how long the class runs.

One-day writing classes can inspire you and introduce you to a lot of unique ideas, but then you have to practice what you've learned at home. Only the most disciplined individuals are able to find success with these one-day classes. Remember, the longer a course runs, the more you'll learn from it. Furthermore, you're going to want to figure out what it is you want to learn about. If you're looking to become a better novelist, see if there are any specific novel-specific classes that are of interest to you. Avoid taking classes that seem to broad because you'll probably end up learning more of what you already know.

Con: One man's trash…
The criticism that's entailed in writing classes is one of the most common complaints about writing classes as a whole. Let's face it, not everybody that reads your work is going to like it. Each and every writer has his or her own signature style, and sometimes our style won't jive with somebody else's. Does that mean our writing isn't good? Absolutely not! 

During your writing class, you may submit something to the professor or fellow students that'll receive a lot of criticism and negative feedback, and that may make you question your talent or style. Should this happen to you, don't let it get you down. You're clearly a talented writer, otherwise you wouldn't be as accomplished as you already are. If you're sensitive about critiques and criticisms, there is a chance you'll find writing classes a bit cut-throat. Decide for yourself whether or not you can handle outside criticism without becoming overly sensitive and angry.

Con: Forced creativity
Every writer goes through bouts of writer's block, and it can be difficult to push through these creative dilemmas. Oftentimes, the solution to improving your writing is to simply stop trying so hard and take a break. I personally turn to reading a good book, going someplace new or unfamiliar, or taking a nap whenever I'm having trouble putting together a writing piece. If you've been having trouble with your writing, I wouldn't be so quick to think that taking a writing class will be the solution to all your problems. The last thing you want to do is to force yourself to create something that isn't genuine or well-written.

If you're considering taking a writing class to help you improve your craft, it's smart to weigh the pros and cons. It's up to you to decide whether or not you need outside help. Happy writing!

Kate Willson is a blogger for She is passionate about providing helpful information to incoming college students and parents and is always pleased to hear from readers.

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