I took my first creative writing class this semester! Although I was excited for it, a part of me hesitated. Would this be worth it? I’ve read so much on writing; could this class really teach me anything I couldn’t find online?
It turned out that I got quite a lot out of the class, though not what I expected to.
This was a three-part course. It was pretty general creative writing, covering poetry, short stories, and creative nonfiction (which is real events told like a story). Every week, I’d submit something to a couple other classmates and we’d do peer reviews.
The peer reviews were great. I’m definitely a hide-in-the-basement type of writer, and don’t really have any writing friends. So it was good to get outside feedback on what I write. You know, to make sure I hadn’t started writing in code or something. Weird things happen to writers’ brains when they’re left alone too long… I had lots of fun reading other people’s writing, too. It was so cool to see how other writers work.
I’d only written four or five poems prior to taking this class (let us never speak of those monstrosities) and read barely a handful more. This became obvious as soon as I tried to complete my first assignment. I couldn’t hear a rhythm in what I read or wrote, and it often took ages to set down word after word.
That being said, some poetry types were better than others. I’m a fairly visual person, so I had fun manipulating the line breaks and spacing in open form poetry.
I’ve spent the last three years focused on writing a single novel, which left little time for exploring other stories. This class gave me permission to do so, especially once we entered the short story section. I’d forgotten how exhilarating it is to come up with a completely new story. I would get an adrenaline rush while
It surprised me how touchy I could be about accepting suggestions on these stories. It wasn’t that the feedback hurt my feelings. Instead, I bristled internally because I’d intentionally written something a certain way. I wasn’t thinking about the choices I made while ‘in the zone,’ but when challenged I realized they were deliberate decisions.
Of course, the suggestions usually revealed that the choice hadn’t worked out, so I changed things anyways to get my point across. My gut reaction, though, definitely shed some light on my unconscious writing brain. It’s always interesting to learn something more about yourself.
Moving on to nonfiction was difficult, mostly because I couldn’t find my voice. I hadn’t read enough nonfiction to not copy someone else’s style, which seems counterintuitive. But with fiction, I’ve read so much that I can blend the styles into something uniquely mine. I can’t do that with the few nonfiction examples I have. My first attempts sounded like an inspirational story for fourth graders. In the future, I’ll read lots of a medium before writing in it.
I didn’t ‘learn’ much, in the conventional sense. I’d already heard of all the techniques the teacher talked about. But this class pushed me to tackle poetry and nonfiction- which I’d never do on my own. It was super fun to read my classmates’ writing and get feedback on my own. The class also grew my understanding of my writing process. Finally, it reminded me to have fun with writing!
Have you taken a creative writing class? How’d it go?