There seems to be some debate in the writing world about whether writing courses are helpful or necessary. Now I’ve finished running my ‘Part 2’ of ‘Writing Children’s Books,’ some of my students have been requesting I run a Part 3. This has got me thinking again about the value of writing courses.
I’ve never undertaken a creative writing course. Many years ago, I did start a correspondence writing course which began with non-fiction writing but then, well…I started writing for magazines as the course suggested, then I began writing children’s books because I wanted to and I’ve not actually had time to do any more on the course. It does cover creative writing somewhere in the distant future, but I’m not actually sure I’m ever going to get that far! (Maybe when I retire, if I could ever retire from writing!)
Do I wish I’d had the opportunity to take a creative writing course before I started writing seriously?
I think I do. Although it’s been wonderful to just jump in, write and hope for the best, it would have been fantastic to glean information and advice from someone who’s ‘been there, done that’ and written the query letter.
Another benefit of writing courses is that they are good for getting you writing when you don’t know where to start. The discipline needed to finish assignments or bring along work to share is also a good exercise.
But another important factor is the people. Correspondence courses are useful for information and developing your writing skills but what about other aspects of being a writer? Writing is a solitary business, one where you continually doubt yourself and your ability to write. How wonderful if, alongside learning, you could have face-to-face contact with a group of people in exactly the same position as you. In my early writing days, I’d have loved an opportunity to share my work with like-minded people, to build up my confidence and improve my work using the constructive criticism offered. It’s so valuable to know that there are people who understand the highs and the lows. People who, when you want to chuck your laptop out the window, tell you to stop being an idiot and have chapter 2 written by the next session.
After my previous writing course finished, we all felt rather sad that it was coming to an end, so I set up an informal Children’s Writers Group where we all meet once a month (I call it Group Therapy). It’s an opportunity to critique each others’ work, support and encourage each other and have a good laugh along the way. Tonight will be the first time my recent group of students join us and I can’t wait.
Creative writing courses aren’t for everybody and they’re certainly not necessary for publication, but I’m sure many people would feel the benefits, especially if the course is in a group setting. And will I run a part 3 course? I hadn’t planned to, but I may be unable to resist. Discussing books, characters, and rhymes with a lovely group of enthusiastic, like-minded people sounds a rather jolly way to spend an evening.