What?? I know I’m going out on a limb here and this whole post could be a struggle but this is my opinion at the moment. Writing courses are run, in the main, by people that haven’t made it and are populated by people that are waiting in vain for a secret code.
Anyone that has read any of my writing will undoubtedly be shouting at their screens by now. It turns out that after a private education, a bunch of a-levels, a degree and a whole load of professional examinations, I don’t speak that proper. I know I have discovered this flaw and I’m working on it but this post is about those creative writing courses that concentrate on writing stories.
Just to clarify, I have never been on a writing course. My opinion would hold more gravity if I had, I’m positive, or if I was world famous and hadn’t. Instead I’m a wannabe writer so take the following words in that vein.
A chap I know called Stephen King, yep… that Stephen King, wrote me a letter. Well, it was a book, and it was published, it was called On Writing and was probably a Bestseller but still. In this book he claims that writing courses are a waste of time and because I’ve never been on one and, occasionally people tell me I should, I’ve latched on to it.
King talks about his toolbox when it comes to being a writer. You have your grammar, your vocabulary and all of the nitty gritty language stuff. In order to write English you have to know how, but at the end of the day writers have editors as a safety net for this stuff. Great writers have never been those at school that knew what a possessive form was, or when it was best to use a semi-colon.
The toolbox is the foundations but after that there’s no rules. People have written great books that have taken on all sorts of different styles. A writers style is incredibly personal so how can that be taught?
I will argue that the best way for a new writer to learn how to craft a perfect book is to read perfect books, the likes of which the writer wants to write. That’s not rocket science.
My problem with writing courses is the same as my problem with a lot of these lessons in art. When you’re in a rock n’ roll band, people never ask which music academy you went to but you still have to learn how to play an instrument. This is because it’s not about virtuosity it’s about expression. People seem to get it in that context.
But it’s different when you look at the highbrow art world, it’s nearly all about which school you studied at. Pretension often gets in the way of great art, and a good education can often give credence to a load of tosh.
The same principle goes for writing. It’s all about expression and if that’s the case then how on earth can someone tell you how best to express your soul. You do that yourself by opening your eyes and being influenced by that which is around you. I can understand how people can gain confidence by being around other writers but wouldn’t it be better to gain confidence by selling books.
There’s always going to be the high brow literary folk and that’s great because it gives variety but you don’t have to be pushed through the same machine to be a success. I believe the simple formula to becoming a better writer is reading as much as you can, writing every day and committing yourself to constant improvement. If you’re the type of person that is looking for an excuse to delay writing your book then get yourself on one of those courses, or even better a retreat, but if you’re not looking for an excuse then just start writing it.
Please let me know if you think I’m talking out of the back of my pencil case.
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