This week I finished my first community writing class, which was offered through a local liberal arts college. The college offered a handful of writing classes; the one I took was on creative non-fiction. It cost about $100. If you’re an aspiring or amateur writer who is on the fence about taking a writing class, here are some reasons why you should take the leap.
- Accountability. Knowing that there would be ACTUAL living humans reading my writing gave me a push to work hard on my essays. I put more effort into editing my work than I normally would if I were just writing for myself. Of course, there are no grades in community writing classes, and the teacher made it clear that we should still come to class even if we didn’t have something prepared. But, if you are the kind of person who responds well to outer accountability and you want to write more, then this aspect alone should be a convincing reason to take a writing class.
- Encouragement. Don’t expect technical or substantial critical feedback from your community writing class. I went in expecting critical feedback, but I soon realized that this wasn’t the point. What our teacher understood, was that instead of ripping our work to shreds, most of us just needed the validation that something in our writing connected. In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott writes that most unpublished writers “need attention. They need someone to respond to their work as honestly as possible but without being abusive or diminishing.” (155) It’s okay to need tenderness around your writing, especially when just starting to share your work with others. After all, this is not an MFA, it’s a community writing class. You will leave your writing class feeling uplifted and motivated to continue.
- New Writing Forms. Your class will have a writing instructor, and that instructor will (hopefully) know more than you. My writing class instructor is an extremely talented writer who has been published in journals, magazines, and papers all over the place. She knows a lot about writing, and she shared that knowledge with us. Each week we were assigned a different “form” of creative non-fiction: memoir, humor, document-based essay (drawing inspiration from a photo or a receipt or an old recipe, etc.), montage essay, and more. Writing in a variety of forms was at times challenging, and at times liberating. I enjoyed the challenge of stepping outside my comfort zone to explore new ways of writing.
- Make New Writer Friends. Sharing your writing with others and reading their writing in return is a beautiful way to build meaningful connection. A writing class is a vulnerable, but deeply supportive place. Lean in to these connections, and when the classends, chances are you’ll have writer friends who may even want to continue meeting as a writer’s group. I was the youngest of five people in my class. We all came from diverse backgrounds with wildly different interests and writing styles, yet, by the end of our six weeks together, we all felt a deep connection to one another. Writing is hard; you need other writers with whom you can celebrate and commiserate. What better place to find these like-minded people than in a community writing class?
- Great Reading Suggestions. Take a writing class for no other reason than the good reading material you’ll walk away with. Each week we were “assigned” various essays and articles from which to draw inspiration. Additionally in each class, the instructor offered numerous suggestions for books and journals and websites, which I furiously wrote down in my notebook and transferred to my Goodreads list. Other students offered suggestions for reading material–books on writing and other creative nonfiction books. I came away with a thick stack of TO READS that I know will help me to become a better writer.
- Write More. There is no doubt about it–taking a community writing class will help you to write more. You’ll get into a weekly rhythm, and the warm fuzzy feelings from class will buoy you with the energy to write, write, write, and re-write. Whether your goal is to apply to an MFA program, get published, or write your life story for your future great grandchildren to read, a community writing class is the little energy boost to get you going. Do it!
Have you taken a community writing class? Did it help your writing? Would you recommend it to others? I’m curious to know what others’ experiences are!