Writing Classes Won’t Make You a Better Writer
We long for connection, guidance, and encouragement from other artists. Although these things may make our creative journey easier, they won’t necessarily make us any better.
I didn’t know any writers growing up.
In my neighborhood, we didn’t have some wise eccentric neighbor who was a writer. There was no role model, no wise elder to show me how to live and work as a writer. I’m sure they were out there, I just didn’t know where to find them. Today this may sound a bit crazy, but this was before the Great Google had taken control of the world and you couldn’t simply pull up page after page of writerly advice and platitudes.
I felt cheated, lost, and isolated.
I couldn’t help but feel like I was somehow missing out. The feeling that everyone else had received a helpful instruction manual but mine had gotten lost in the mail.
I tried to make up for it. I spent hours devouring all of the how-to writing guides I could find at our local library. Most of them, however, offered questionable advice such as “write what you know,” or they were little more than grammar books dressed up in fancy clothes.
More than anything I wanted a teacher, a mentor, or just someone who would show me not only how to write, but also how to successfully live the life of a professional writer.
Writing classes don’t help writers, writing helps writers
When I was in college, I signed up for one creative writing class after another hoping that I would find the answers I was searching for.
What I soon discovered, however, was the fact that once you learned how to read and master elementary school grammar, there really wasn’t that much someone else could teach you about becoming a better writer — other than you had to sit down and write (and learn how to take a punch in the ego).
Never put off writing until you are better at it. ~Gary Henderson
The art of writing has never really been about mastering technique or knowing all of the rules of grammar anyway. Writing isn’t like engineering or medical school where learning how to do things the right way can be a matter of life and death. It’s not even like graphic design or fine arts school that can teach you the techniques and necessary skills of the trade. Writing is about your ability to communicate and connect with the emotions of others.
Writing is about writing — it’s not about learning the “rules” of writing.
You can’t learn to become a better writer by listening to people talk about writing, any more than you can learn how to swim by listening to someone talk about swimming. The only way to become a better writer is to find a way to put your butt in the chair and start writing. You simply have to do the work.
Don’t get me wrong, a great teacher can help you by encouraging you to write and continue to write even when it sucks, but the real work is done inside of your own head.
So even though writing classes may not be able to teach you the art of writing, they do give you the opportunity to write (and learn).
Writing is always going to be hard.
Whether you’re writing a poem, a novel, or a blog post, writing is never as easy as it should be.
This is why we sometimes feel like we’re missing that one secret writing tip that would make all of the other puzzle pieces suddenly fall into place. So we end up reading one more book, taking one more class, or skimming one more blog post on the “5 Secrets Every Writer Needs to Know!”
This is how you do it: You sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard. ~Neil Gaiman
But it doesn’t get any easier.
Just as the artist will always fear the blank canvas, and the musician will be terrified before setting foot on the stage, the writer will always be afraid that one day we will wake up and have nothing more say.
Later on, after reading many of their biographies, I learned that even the most successful writers are still filled with fears and doubts about their craft. They have no secrets to share other than to prove that making a living as a professional writer is possible with hard work and a little perseverance.
So the moral of the story here is to stop wasting anymore of your time searching for helpful writing tips or signing up for yet another online writing class looking for answers.
You already have everything that you need.
About the Author
Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book "Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work" is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.