Don’t do it. Don’t bother taking Creative Writing classes.
Well…maybe do it. It depends.
I studied Film & TV screenwriting and Creative Writing at the University of Central Lancashire and years since graduating I have to ask…did I actually learn anything in those Creative Writing classes?
The “Film & TV screenwriting” element is where I’d say I learnt the most, mainly just how a script is formatted, again though this is easily picked up outside of the classroom environment by reading. But it’s only recently I have come to grips with a key truth about the learning process on this writing journey – you learn the most through reading and writing.
We’ll come back to this in a second but I first want to get some positivity into this article – what are the reasons you SHOULD take a creative writing class?
- The experience – if you’re of college/university age with no idea what you want to do and you just love reading and writing then go for it. Going to University is a big deal, you get your independence from home, you make new friends, you experience every emotion possible. It’s not all unicorns and bunnies as independence can be hard – especially if you go somewhere far from home then you could suffer from homesickness. But it’s all part of the experience of growing up. And after all, they say write what you know!
- Being forced to write – This is the main reason I loved the courses I was on. If you want to take a course focused on writing, you’re damn sure going to need to write. If, like me, you can be a huge procrastinator then this is excellent. I wrote so many short stories and film scripts during my time at University, solely because I had to. You’re also surrounded by similar creatives and there can be a nice atmosphere with that.
- Opportunities and contacts – If you go to a good college or university they will hopefully have good links to the industry, opportunities to pitch in front of big media companies, contacts with publishers and agents. These types of events are run all the time outside of education but you have to go hunting for them and sometimes they come with high fees. At least whilst you’re at University you can make the most of these and get up to some great stuff in your home country and even abroad.
That’s three great reasons TO go take part in some Creative Writing classes right?
But there are downsides too, the most obvious is there isn’t a job waiting for you at the end of it like there is with a more traditional/vocational course. You don’t get a “Graduate Author” job on the back of your Creative Writing classes. There are options though, my creative writing job got me a job in marketing – but a marketing degree would have helped me get a better job sooner.
So if you’re already in a career and want to write a book/script and are looking at some Creative Writing classes in your area – save your money. If you’re about to go to University at 18 and want to do Creative Writing, save your money or better yet, why not take a course that will help net you a job at the end of it – something good to fall back on?
Instead, just read. Keep reading until you know what you like and then write.
Want to write the next bestselling YA novel? Read the bestselling YA novels (and also the awful ones). This will show you what works and what doesn’t, and the more you read the more of a picture of how to write you will create and then get started with your work. Practice, practice, practice.
Want to write the next Oscar winning screenplay? Read the Oscar winning screenplays (and also the awful ones again)! Unlike books most scripts you can find online for free legally so you can browse at your leisure. You will see how scripts are formatted on the page, you will realise that there is generally a three-act-structure. Read the script for your favourite film, and then watch the film and see what’s changed. See how the words translate to the screen.
You can’t be taught creativity and you get taught to write in school so “Creative Writing” does seem like a strange idea for a course does it not?
Instead join up to online writing community like ours, or join a local writing workshop so you can share your work and get feedback. If you live in Lancashire, UK come down to Just Write in Preston – workshops run most Sunday’s 2-4pm and are totally free.
But whatever you do – Just read and then get writing!