While they might just seem like grade-boosters to lighten the load of a heavy semester, creative writing classes offer a wealth of benefits for all students. Providing a chance to practice beneficial skills, creative writing classes aren’t just for English majors. My post-secondary institution began offering a creative writing minor just last year that expands student opportunities by putting creative writing credits towards their degree.
Why should you consider adding a creative writing class when registration comes around?
The first and most obvious reasons are right there in the name. Creative writing classes give you the chance to flex your creative muscles (for credit!) while also working on your written communication skills. If you’re close to graduating, take note. Strong writing skills are useful in any workplace environment and a creative drive is one of the most useful things a person can have going into the workforce.
These skills are important for everyone, regardless of where you are in your degree. Writing practice is particularly important for students in arts programs, or any other program that requires a lot of essays and other written assignments. How many of us have had papers handed back with more red than black ink on the page? I can’t tell you the number of times my A paper has been knocked down to a B for unclear prose.
Writing is a skill that comes with practice.
Everyone has trouble choosing the right words and phrasing. Sitting down to write is like going for a run: it’s a laborious task if you only write once a month. However, with consistent practice, it becomes easier each time. Eventually, the words will seem to write themselves.
Creative writing gives you the opportunity to work on your written skills in a more enjoyable setting than, say, History 1100. So, be honest with yourself. Which assignment are you more likely to leave until the night before: your six-page analysis of Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bomb, or a short story about an intern working in the White House over the summer of 1945?
Creative writing classes provide a unique experience where students can explore projects they might not otherwise come across. Often, these classes are based on conversations rather than lectures, focusing on discussions between the instructor and students. Everyone has an equal voice. Workshopping, where students openly express their thoughts and bounce ideas off of one another, is a prime example of one of the many benefits that creative writing classes offer.
A typical creative writing workshop goes something like this:
I write my piece—a poem, short story, or screenplay—and everyone else in the class takes it home to read. On an assigned day, everyone comes to class with constructive comments and critiques. By the end of the term, everyone has had their piece read by their classmates (sometimes multiple times). Often, instructors will have students work on hard copies, taking notes in the margins and basically doing a job similar to that of a professor grading papers. After all, physical note-taking stimulates learning far more effectively than word-processors.
One of the best ways to improve your writing is by reading someone else’s. The fact is, most of us make similar mistakes as we write. Learning how to spot problems by reading other works can teach us how to spot issues on our own. Workshopping also teaches students how to provide feedback succinctly by editing manuscripts and summarizing those edits in class.
Workshops provide a chance to practice constructive criticism — both giving and receiving it.
This is one of the most important and useful skills you’ll practice in creative writing. The discussions always focus on the writing and not the writer. This is a useful distinction built into the very structure of the class, and it helps students learn how to interact with each other professionally and constructively.
More importantly, this distinction helps students practice between critiquing a person’s work and criticizing the person themselves. With the help of good instructors, students learn how to refine and articulate their comments clearly and concisely. Creative writing workshops help students prioritize the constructive part of constructive criticism.
In the end, creative writing classes are an exercise in creativity, confidence, and communication. Whether you’re out enjoying winter’s end or stuck inside revising for spring exams, give some thought to adding a creative writing class to your schedule next semester.
You won’t regret it.
About the Author:
Cameron Mitchell is a Calgary based writer, currently studying English and History at Mount Royal University. He is a lover of books and thoughtful conversation.