So, this is a question I’ve googled a lot of times myself, and I don’t think I’ve ever found an answer that felt applicable to me. That may well mean my answer’s not applicable to other people, but having just taken my first courses in Creative Writing at the University of Toronto, I wanted to share my thoughts.
My worry whenever I considered paying for a writing course in the past was that maybe writing isn’t something that can be taught. So many wonderful authors have never taken these courses but have still produced extraordinary writing, and I’m sure plenty of people who do pay for courses don’t feel like they learn enough to justify the money.
But, for me, there are a few very good reasons to pay for a course. And, disclaimer, I say this as an unpublished amateur – I’d love to write a novel one day but at the moment my writing is for my own pleasure and tends not to leave the safety of my laptop except when required for a class. But, having now taken writing courses myself, I think there are good reasons to invest in them even if you’re not sure they’ll help the actual quality/marketability of your writing.
So, here are some reasons that a creative writing course might be a good idea for you, even if it might stretch your budget a little bit:
- It provides external motivation to write: For me, this was the biggest factor in eventually signing up for a course. I’ve always loved to write and have planned to write a novel for maybe five or six years now, but although I often get started and write a chapter or two, I find I end up losing motivation. Something else comes up at work or in my personal life, or I get addicted to a new book or TV show, and writing gets forgotten. Paying for a course that requires me to turn up every week, often with a prepared piece of writing, is an extra nudge that convinces me to use my free time to write over binge-watching Nashville on Netflix (which I’m doing as I write this…).
- You get exposed to new styles of writing: This is something I hadn’t even realised would happen, but now, having finished my first two creative writing modules, I’m pretty amazed when I reflect on the stories I’ve come across that never would have found their way onto my bookshelf before. This is especially true for me because I’m not much of a short story reader. I like to get absorbed in a novel so tend to avoid short stories and collections unless they’re by an author I can’t resist. Being assigned stories to read and discuss as part of a course has given me so many new ideas and so much new insight into the way great authors write and structure their work. I’ve even started listening to the New Yorker Fiction Podcast so that makes me feel very intellectual and cultured.
- You spend time with other bookish people: In both my writing classes, students have been from all ages and backgrounds, but have arrived with a shared love of reading and writing. It’s so inspiring to spend a few hours a week with other people that share your passion and to share feedback with each other. I learnt a huge amount from reading other people’s stories and seeing the feedback they were given as well as from sharing my own work, and it’s nice to now have a group of new contacts I can reach out to if I ever want any literary advice or to share some work.
There are obviously many, many other reasons why a course can be beneficial, but these are three positive things I’ve really noticed since starting to study writing. I’m really looking forward to starting my next two modules (in novel-writing and writing for children) and now feel confident that I’m putting my money into something that brings me enough happiness to make it worthwhile.
Are you considering signing up for a course? Or have you taken one in the past and have thoughts about it you’d like to add to mine or that contradict mine? I’d love to hear about it!