Three Ingredients of a Successful Creative Writing Class

When I blog about creative writing classes, I concentrate on the meat and bones of the class, the exercises, the techniques. Certainly, once you have those in place, your class will go smoothly. But it’s the ingredients you can’t predict that decide whether a creative writing class will have that extra zing.

I’ve identified three of those ingredients. It may sound as if I’m being flippant, but when these ingredients are in place, the atmosphere will be pleasant and conducive to learning. They’re a real indicator of the mood of the class.

  1. They tell you they can’t make class

If a person texts or calls you to tell you they’re not coming, it’s a touching sign that they’re committed to the class and wish they could be there. They’ve built up a relationship with you and they don’t want to leave you in the lurch. And it’s reassuring to know that if I see an empty chair, it’s empty for a good reason and the person hasn’t jumped ship.

empty chair


2. They take a long time to do the exercises.

Some people naturally work quickly. But I’ve found that when students take longer over exercises, they’re taking care to understand what they need to do. Again, it’s a sign of commitment. It can also show that students are getting carried away with their writing and that the creative juices are flowing.

  1. They eat the biscuits at break

I’m on a secret mission to thicken my students’ waistlines! No, I actually get biscuits and chocolates out of appreciation for the fact that they’ve decided to brave my classes. And I’ve noticed that when students eat them, they’re willing to let their hair down, relax and have a laugh.

If you give or go to creative writing classes, what do you think are the tipping points for a successful class?


8 thoughts on “Three Ingredients of a Successful Creative Writing Class

  1. I attend the *amazing* Creative Writing for Publication at NUI Maynooth (Kilkenny campus).

    I think a tipping point for success is to let everybody speak and have everybody’s work examined by the group at each sitting, even excerpts of 1-200 words teach huge lessons to all.

    Also, where the tutor don’t allow one or a clique to dominate. And biscuits.


    1. Greetings, fellow student of the Kilkenny Course (I did it in 2007-8, the first year). I heartily concur about the biscuits. They’re the glue that holds a group together. As a tutor now, I’mm conscious of the need to let everyone feel they’ve a chance to speak. Bringing quiet people out tends to be more of a challenge than shutting people up. You can forget they’re there if you’re not careful.


  2. The minute I read this interesting post, ‘tales of the unexpected’ jumped into my mind. One of the most brilliant creative writing classes I attended was one in which everything I expected ,and thought I wanted, didn’t happen. I learned more there than at many other writing classes. I will never know if it was a deliberate ploy. It didn’t feel like that but interestingly the class still has me thinking and remembering whereas many others have merged into one. As I left that day, I never expected such an outcome or for the class to have impacted so much on my approach to writing and teaching.


      1. I was expecting the usual format of so many classes ~ inspiration, write and then share. There was inspiration, writing but no sharing, Instead, a sharing by the leader of the group of wonderful gems and an invitation (which was honoured with interest) to re-work our writing and email it on for a reflective exchange,


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