The Internet is filled with interactive “writing courses,” and believe it or not, Creative Writing is still an official major at many universities, as elusive as that profession may seem, especially nowadays.
With so many writers cutting out the middleman by self-publishing, where does that leave the field of education? Is it even necessary anymore?
Yes. Perhaps now more than ever.
When it comes to almost any commercialized art form, a healthy mix of text book information, disciplined studies, and hard life experience is required in equal measures for anyone striving to make a career with their craft.
But how do you divvy those up, and how much should you invest in each?
Do What You Love – But Don’t Let It Do You
If you really want to be known as a professional writer, and not just someone who writes as a hobby, you need to treat it like a job, which requires both discipline and education, some of which you can research on your own, but never discount the benefits of a formal education, whether it’s in person or online.
The trick is achieving balance between stuff you learn from somebody else’s book, and stuff you eventually put into your own book, which ironically may inspire others to follow their own literary dreams down the line.
That fine line is not invisible, but it is a tightrope.
Some Things Can’t Be Taught – But Only One Way To Find Out
Life experience is both free to get and often difficult to endure, with no promised rewards like a diploma or paycheck. You just let it happen to you, or better yet, you make it happen, then you use what you can as various situations arrive.
Naturally, since every writer is a unique individual, just like regular humans, their experiences will vary, and so will their reactions.
This will help you develop both your character as a person, and your skills as a creator, as your voice is honed via your unique visceral reactions to your special circumstances. This quality is what makes any work of art stand out and endure: empathy.
So when anything bad or good happens to you, use it, and chalk it up to experience, which is just another facet of your education.
But not all of it.
Because then you need to shape your personal stories into a polished product, ready to roll out with confidence in a competitive marketplace, crowded with voices vying for the same limited number of readers. That’s where the formal aspect comes in, the kind you may need to actually pay for. Like, in cash.
Practical Application of Impractical Self-Expression
A classroom, whether virtual or physical, offers students a sense of structure (both on the page and in your daily routine), camaraderie with your classmates, and valuable networking, since no successful author lives entirely in a bubble, carelessly oblivious to social obligations and the necessity of public platform building. Only the process itself is solitary. The rest is a matter of public interaction, which is equally crucial when it comes to actual promotions.
An experienced teacher with serious credentials can help you mold the clay of your raw imagination into something that agents, publishers and readers will find compelling, while encouraging you to explore and discover your own style via consistent practice outside the assigned curriculum.
The idea is to expand your knowledge and skill set in as many ways as possible, without excluding any avenues or options, since you never know when a particular lesson will prove crucial in a future assignment from a client, not just a professor.
And never underestimate the intellectually stimulating power of like-minded company. Not only will you be meeting fellow writers that share many of the same concerns and insecurities, but you’ll also be hooking up with folks at various functions associated with the course that may help you in landing a gig that itself can lead to future successes.
Live and Learn
It’s all connected, and your education as a writer never ends, since your subject – generally human nature and the world in which it exists, even if it’s science fiction – is itself constantly evolving and revealing new facets of itself, and a successful writer, and person, learns to roll with those punches.
As for which course to choose when pursuing a formal education as a writer?
In this case, it’s best to do your homework first. That’s lesson #1. And there won’t ever be a final lesson, either.
Unless you simply drop out. But if you don’t, and remain determined despite the odds against you, you’ve passed the first and toughest test already.
What kind of education have you had as an author?
PHOTO: PHELYAN SANJOIN