Tuesday, October 07, 2008

No Writing Courses, Please

On a recent blog post I mentioned advice that is often given by writing instructors and how the advice can hinder an author rather than help her. One of the reactions I received from a number of readers was to avoid writing classes. And while I don’t entirely agree with that advice, I do think writing classes should be taken with a measure of caution.

As I’m sure many will agree, writing courses can be incredibly helpful and useful. They can help you discover or break free of what’s been holding you back. They can also trap you and become your biggest obstacle. I see it all the time at conferences, on message boards, and in blog comments. Authors telling me why they can’t do something and referring back to a writing course or a critique group. Why again can’t you do it? With any creative pursuit, like writing, painting, pottery, or photography, a class can be incredibly useful in helping you learn new techniques or see things a different way. However, you need to remember that unlike accounting, these pursuits are not cut and dry. In other words, there is more than one way to write a book or paint a picture. There is rarely more than one way to keep the books (legally, that is).

So take your writing courses. Sometimes it helps to listen to what others have to say, but remember that you need to take what you learn and see first if it fits your style before running ahead and simply changing everything because your instructor said so.