Trends I have noticed: people who have taken writing classes in higher education are almost universally both unpublished and totally clueless about what publishable writing looks like.
It’s almost as though you …
Yo man I’m gonna challenge this.
The two year writing class I took made me a better writer, and critical reader. My ability to edit is pretty dang fine - something I have done for money a few times now. When I do write, my structure is better, my characters more well-rounded and my sense of dialogue flows hella more than it used to. All my fics were written in my first year of that course and now I just want to edit them all (but I don’t because it’s a nice marker of what I used to write like.)
It’s awesome if you didn’t take a writing course and found yourself a writer. The only way to be better is practice - this is true in any field. Our practice just didn’t take the form of distance-learning, if you will. We had critical feedback from our peers, something that’s hard to get if you don’t know the right people.
Yo man, I could write, and I have written since then.The only thing is this: WRITING IS HARD no matter what. Some days, the words come when called and other days they lay recalcitrant on the other side of the room mocking me. And I’m doing this law school thing which means that on the weeks I’m not reading hundreds (and I do mean hundreds, last week was 220 pages of text book and then some of cases and articles) of dry boring shit, I’m probably on here, or at the library or staring in the void that has become my soul.
TLDR; Just because people take writing courses and aren’t published doesn’t mean there is no value in writing courses.
As someone who was in those two years of creative writing classes with Kristy (and another afterwards): yeah, no, OP. Do creative writing classes necessarily teach you how to write? No. Different people have different learning styles (and who’s running your course, how it’s taught, how much you’ve written and gotten feedback on your writing prior to the course, what its timeframe is, what sort of basis you’re evaluated on, etc. all affects the effectiveness of that course for you), so a creative writing course that’s fantastic for one person can be a total gongshow for someone else.
This is especially true when it comes to who is in the class with you! I know that myself, Kristy, and some others in our class really enjoyed the maximum possible benefits from the class because we became a tightly knit group of friends (with ruthless red pens, unafraid to tell one another when we’d fucked up), we became acquainted with one another’s styles and felt safe around one another, so even when one of us laid into the other’s story, we knew it was coming from a) someone whose opinion we respected, as a writer and a friend, and b) from a place of love, thus lessening the immediate ‘OH GOD I’M NEVER WRITING AGAIN’ sensation that sometimes comes along with a hearty concrit. I also know that some people in the class really didn’t mesh as well with the core group, and their writing on the whole tended not to improve as drastically as those in the in-crowd did, which is shitty, but also human nature. Those of us who became close friends got really excited for each week’s class, even if it meant reading a novel and five 20-page submissions along with preparing our own, because it was a social event and a chance for us to see our favourite people on campus. We enjoyed it, so it was much easier for us to throw our all into it.
I’m well aware that taking creative writing courses does not automatically make you A Fantastic Writer. In my last year, after Kristy left, me and a few others from the core group ended up in a course with a bunch of grad students (we were, at the time, undergrads), and for the most part their performance was underwhelming. We were all extremely disappointed — we’d expected to be totally out of our league, awed by the vastly greater experience of our academic betters, but instead we found quite a few of them making the rookie mistakes we’d eradicated in our first workshop. (And I believe all of those grad students have been published, which should speak volumes re: the quality of published authors.) They could spout theory like no one’s business, but when it came down to their actual craft, despite having taken creative writing courses for years, they were underwhelming.
A creative writing course will not necessarily make you a better writer, but if you find a good course and you apply yourself in it, there’s an excellent chance that it will. It’s not unlike NaNoWriMo in that it gives you writing deadlines that you have to meet (and, unlike NaNoWriMo, there can be v. real consequences to your GPA if you slack off), which encourages regular writing, which is key to becoming a better writer. You learn how to constructively critique the work of others, and learn how to take concrit yourself. If you have a good professor, you’ll learn about the basic building blocks of writing (characterization, setting, diction, pacing, etc etc etc), be pushed to challenge yourself and your audience, and look at a lot of different writers’ work (some well-known, some less so) to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and why. You will try to apply all of that new knowledge to your own work. In my case, creative writing courses made me a far better and far more dedicated writer. They encouraged me to push my boundaries and develop my voice and experiment with new subjects and tones and formats. They have been invaluable not only to my writing but to my sense of self and self-esteem (and social circle). They’ve gotten me paid work, and writing awards, and publication opportunities.
TLDR: Creative writing courses are not a necessity for good writing. They will not necessarily make you a better writer. They will not necessarily lead to you getting published. But they can.