Having recently finished a draft of my novel, I found myself creatively tapped, to say the least. I thought I’d write some short stories, or get back into the habit of doing a daily morning writing prompt, or maybe start noodling the next book, but I soon discovered I had nothing to offer. No matter how hard I tried I was utterly uninspired.
So I signed up for a writing class.
I took a six-week class taught by Steven Wolfson at UCLA Extension Writers Program, and I’ll admit that, when I showed up on the first day, I had no idea what I was going to write about. I gave myself permission to just go with the flow of the class, without expectation of brilliance, to see what happened next.
What happened next was a LOT of writing. Being around other writers in a workshop environment, I was forced (or at least strongly persuaded) to participate in the exercises and do the homework. The prompts generated some truly rubbish work, paragraphs of pointless prose, with no narrative thrust and no hope of ever having any. But they also sparked the beginnings of some short stories and I started to notice a theme emerging. Before long, a new character began elbowing her way into my pages, and demanding to have her story heard. I suspect I’ll be writing more about her soon.
Generating new work isn’t the only benefit of taking a writing class. Here are a few others I’ve discovered over the years:
- Reignite Inspiration: As in my case, sometimes even the things you love to do don’t come easily, and taking a class can help get you back on the writing rails.
- Build your writing muscle: Jacqueline Winspear, bestselling of the Maisie Dobbs series, likens taking a writing class to going to the gym and working out her writing muscles. I love the image of the writerly side of my brain pumping iron.
- Meet people: Writing can be a lonely line of work and sometimes my cat doesn’t want to listen to me anymore. It’s good for a writer to change out of her sweats and slippers and go out into the world sometimes.
- Find fellow writers: I’ve been a member of several writers’ groups over the years and found them to be hugely helpful. I found (or formed) all those groups through people I met in class. I also connected with the people who have become my trusted beta readers.
- Find out what’s going on in writing world: Classes almost always include breaks, which can be a great time to socialize and find out what other people are working on, what they’ve heard on the publishing industry grapevine, and what tools and resources they’ve found helpful.
- Create time to write: Writing takes a lot of willpower and some days that’s hard to find. If you’re struggling to make time to write, committing two or three hours a week to attend a class gets you into the habit of writing consistently.
- Try something fun: Over the years I’ve taken classes in memoir, non-fiction, screenwriting, and playwriting. I’m toying with the idea of a poetry class, too. It’s fun to write in a different format and it can be enlightening to see your stories told with a new slant.
In my case, taking a class provided a vacation for my brain and gave me an opportunity to explore untapped corners of my imagination. Definitely worth the price of admission.