Can Writing Courses Kill Your Writing Career?

by Anita Stratos, Proof Positive editor

It sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Writing courses are supposed to help build your writing career with insights into style, content, character development, and all the other things needed for a good novel. They also offer a good opportunity to network with fellow writers.

So how can something so good be bad?

When it’s misused. And I was a prime example of that.

I’ve taken lots of creative writing courses through the years, starting in college and then into post-graduate classes, and I got some good information and resources from each. In fact, I was able to use some of my writing exercises in my fiction writing. But after attending a number of them (I won’t say how many!), even though each one had a
somewhat different slant on the subject, I noticed that there was a lot of repetition.

Why can’t they come up with original content? I thought.

eleve_posant_une_questionWell, they had. But there’s only so much original content creative writing courses can have. Each one dealt with a different aspect or specialty within creative writing, but there’s always that common ground that all creative writing classes have to cover.

And that’s when I realized that the old breakup line applied here: It’s not you, it’s me.

I needed to break up with writing courses.

I’d become a perpetual student. Every time I’d embark on a new piece of fiction writing, I’d see another course I should take. Who was I to think I was ready to write a novel when there were still so many courses I hadn’t taken?

I misused writing courses as an excuse to not actually do the writing. I always felt I needed more information, better direction, deeper insights into the craft. The dawn finally broke when I realized I was looking at taking a course on breaking into magazine writing – after I had already established myself as a freelance writer and had a couple hundred articles published from the local to the international level.

How much more “breaking in” did I need? At that point I could probably have taught the course!

So yes, take those courses when they’re relevant to your work. But don’t overdo it – don’t forgo the writing for the course-taking. Courses are meant to enhance your writing, not replace it.

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