I’ve taken two creative writing classes. They were both beginner level, since my college doesn’t have a creative writing track, and beginner classes were all they had on offer.
Because they were beginner classes, they really didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know from the various writing advice channels on Youtube, or the various articles I’ve read here on Medium.
Likewise, the workshop experience was very lackluster. Because it was a beginner class, these were people who, at best, had only ever dabbled in fiction writing. Some of them had never written at all, though they had the desire to do so. Some of them were only there because it filled an easy elective credit. One guy claimed he never even read fiction! (You can imagine how excited I was to read his workshop story.)
You don’t have to have an experience as a writer to give feedback, though, and one of the most frustrating things was that none of my classmates were even willing to do that. It’s because they were being too nice. They all talked about how much they liked each other’s stories while offering no real criticisms that could be used to help make the stories better, which is the entire point of workshop.
Yet, for all of that, I don’t regret taking these classes. Because they did give me one invaluable thing — a deadline.
Before that first creative writing class, I was someone who was paralyzed by self-doubt and inexperience. I would sit in front of a blank screen and nothing would come out. I think I went almost ten years without writing more than a page.
That deadline forced me to push past the self-doubt and finally start putting pen to paper. It took me three months, but I finally finished the first story I’d ever written. Then I got that story published. (In an undergrad literary magazine where the competition wasn’t exactly stiff, admittedly, but it’s something!)
Now it’s three years later and I’ve written hundreds of pages. I haven’t actually finished very many of the projects I’ve started, but I’ve written a lot, and I feel that my writing is improving every day.
And I owe it all to that deadline.