Why People Attend Creative Writing Classes

Creative writing classes are often seen as growhouses, incubating the next bestselling author. Occasionally, articles will appear in newspapers and magazines, questioning whether creative writing classes offer a valid path to publication. But publication rate is a narrow view of the success of creative writing classes. The value of creative writing classes goes far beyond a sparkly cover with a name on it.

There are as many reasons for attending creative writing classes as there are people.





There are as many reasons for people to attend creative writing classes as there are people attending them. From four years of giving creative writing classes, these are the main reasons that I’ve identified.

  1.  It’s a fulfilling hobby

People often look for an outlet, a new experience that will bring them satisfaction and enrich their lives. Maybe they’ve retired, their children are a little older or they want to they’ve moved and want to meet new people. They appreciate the opportunity to learn new skills and feel satisfied when they create a complete piece of writing. They may continue to write for their own pleasure after a course has finished, and if an anthology comes out of it, they enjoy getting a taste of the publication experience.

2. For self expression

Many of the people who come to creative writing classes are driven by a desire to express themselves, either emotionally or creatively. They may be creative in other ways, as artists and musicians, and see the written word as a complement to their primary art form. They may also have had important formative experiences in their lives and appreciate the opportunity to give shape to those experiences through words.

 3. Escape

I’m always struck by the fact that the people who come to my classes are often the busiest, people juggling children, jobs and elderly parents, sometimes at the same time. Coming to writing workshops lets them rise above the daily grind and live differently for a while. Creative writing classes help them carve out time to savour new experiences and be stimulated by new ideas. It’s like a mini-holiday for them.

4. To find out how writing works

Some people come to creative writing classes because they’re bookworms and the classes give them a chance to find out how their favourite authors create their books. And some people just enjoy learning about the mechanics of writing. Creative writing classes help them to read at a deeper level and expose them to new types of books and stories.

5. And yes, to be published.

If you have the hunger to be published, a good creative writing class will give you the tools and inspiration to set you on your way. If you’re halfway through a story and you’re stuck, the classes will help you get over the line. You’ll get feedback from your fellow participants, which will help you improve your work. Above all, you’ll realise you’re not mad to want to be a published writer, and that it’s a feasible and realisable dream.

What made you sign up to a creative writing class? And if you give them, what reasons have you identified for why people attend them?


Escaping the Writing Desert

I don’t believe in writers’ block. But I do believe in the writing desert. It’s a place where words turn into dust, where mirages of stories dance before your eyes, but vanish as you reach out for them. Being in the writing desert doesn’t mean you don’t write, but you write in circles, like a desert fox chasing its tail.

It would be easy to surrender to the writing desert’s shimmering sands. It’s a place where there is no rejection, no fear. But to stay there would mean betraying tha talent that lies inside you, and thwarting your writing voice. If you stay in the writing desert, you will wither.

No helicopter is going to come and rescue you, so you need an escape plan. I’m going to share my one with you, in the hope that it will help you formulate your own.

 1. Write for Yourself

A lot of writers eject ideas from their subconscious before they’ve had a chance to form because they’re afraid it’s not what the market wants. They’re paralysed by the thought of how daunting the publishing process is and lose heart because they feel their ideas are too puny.

The best action to take is to turn your back on publication. It may seem counter-intuitive, but in the long term, it restores your confidence. Give yourself the freedom to write what you want, and write for a set amount of time each day or each week. You’ll establish a writing rhythm, which will keep a channel open for publishable ideas to flow through. The act of writing itself is powerful. It is an act of faith in yourself.

 2. Write Around Yourself

You can never entirely escape yourself when you write, but if your writing is too introspective, you’ll remain in the quicksand. Expand your reach to the world around you, to the people you meet and the places you know. Draw a map of that world with your words. Use your writing to push past your assumptions and understand that world better. You won’t be taking yourself entirely out of the equation, but you’ll turn your life’s experiences into stories that readers will relate to.

3. When You’re Not Writing, Just Live

When you’re not writing, it’s tempting to spend a lot of time fretting about the fact that you’re not writing. But it’s better to shove writing to the back of your mind when you stop writing, and immerse yourself in the richness of the world around you. Pay close attention to your surroundings. Eavesdrop shamelessly on conversations. This will add texture to your writing, so you can create that 3D effect that allows readers to feel they’ve entered a whole new world. And trust that while you’re getting on with the business of living, your subconscious is churning away and will produce a brilliant idea for a story when you least expect it.

This is not a failsafe escape plan. But it at least ensures that you will write in a straight line, instead of in circles. And if you walk that straight line for long enough, you will end up in the abundant lands where your stories reside.

What’s your writing desert escape plan? Feel free to share your tips.