Saturday, October 29, 2011

What's Your Take on Creative Writing Classes?

QOTD: If you have ever taken a creative writing class (or any sort of writing class) before, what was your experience? If you have not taken a writing class, would you want to?

College students have an average of 12 different "What am I gonna do with my life?!" spasms per semester.* So far I've only had about two or three, which isn't that many, comparatively. As class registration begins for next semester, however, I think there's a fourth spasm that is beginning to boil just underneath the surface at the moment. 

Technically, I'm a Journalism and Psychology double major with a minor in Creative Writing - at the moment. (Fun fact: Most college kids change their majors around three to four timess**). I say "at the moment" because...wait, for it.........I think I may be dropping my Creative Writing minor. 

*gasp* I know, I know...I have been wanting to take Creative Writing courses for the longest time. It hasn't helped that I have tried twice to enroll into our Intro to Fiction class...and then failed both times. Now, all of a sudden I'm second-guessing this long-term desire of mine. (Talk about drastic life-changing decisions, right?)

The thing is, I'm starting to question my previous motives for wanting to take a Creative Writing course. Is it critique? Is it praise? Is it the desire for my writing to be shredded into pieces? Is it a community of literary students in which we can all mutually give advice on our work? Is it a professor who will teach me how to write creatively? 

My answer to all of these questions is: maybe. But I'm starting to wonder, will these things really make me a better writer? And the truth is, I'm starting to think no, no they won't. 

What it all comes down to is that I don't want my motivation for writing "well" (whatever that means) to be attached to my GPA grade. Writing is supposed to be for the writer, and I can't help but feel like accommodating my work to satisfy the preferences of others--peers or teacher--actually belittles what I am writing. Also, I tend to be really competitive as well as self-conscious about my writing. In a Creative Writing class, I feel like I would get too caught up in trying to write something that's "better" or "more unique" or "more descriptive" than anyone else's...and then in the process, I would lose myself. I wouldn't be writing for myself anymore. 

And, for me at least, it's when I write solely for myself and nobody else that I actually grind out something relatively decent. 

Another issue I have with creative writing classes deals with the fact that there is somebody else grading your work. I REALLY, really don't like the idea of teachers (or people in generally, really) thinking they have the power to declare whether or not a particular piece of art (visual, literary, or other) is "good" or "bad" or "has value," much less label it with a letter or number grade, like "This story gets an A-" or "This poem seems like a 91 to me." As far as I'm concerned, as long as that art matters to somebody, then it has immeasurable value and worth. 

Of course, I'm definitely not saying that critique is bad or you should only focus on what you think is important in your writing. Having people you trust look over your work and tell you their honest opinions is one of the most essential parts of the revision process. You get to find out if the meaning you are trying to convey in your writing actually gets through to your audience. You are able to realize what sticks out to others and what doesn't, what needs more emphasis and clarification and what just doesn't work at all. 

The thing is, I am all for critique and feedback and even peer editing and workshops...just not in a class setting. I prefer to consult my sister or my closest friends about my work, because I know that they will tell me like it is, they will still love me even if my writing doesn't click at all with them and they won't try to compete with me for a good grade. There's less pressure, and you can be yourself without having to feel like you need to write a certain way to please somebody else.

So maybe Dr. Fate purposely made me fail at registration--though I did get every other class I wanted except for Creative Writing. Besides, I think Journalism and Psychology is enough to deal right now. At least until my next life-decisions spasm. :)

What do you think? I have never taken a Creative Writing class before, so my thoughts and assumptions could be totally off. Regardless, I would love to hear about your experiences and opinions with Creative Writing classes. 

*This statistic is purely based on my observations and has not been scientifically proven. 

**This statistic has been mentioned in various studies dealing with college life. 



Talli Roland said...

This is a tricky one, because I think the value of the class depends on the teacher. If the teacher has actually teachers about structure, conflict, etc, then I think it can be valuable. But too many creative writing sessions are peer=led critiques, which isn't helpful when you get 30 different opinions.

Lydia Kang said...

I think classes can offer a lot of good stuff but I don't think they are a requirement to writing good prose and getting published.

I came close to trying to get an MFA in either poetry or fiction, but instead decided to just work on my craft with the help of very critical and supportive crit partners and practicing like crazy. It worked out for me.

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