Everyday for ten days, I’ll post a new tip for finding a writing class.
Number Four: Know What You Want
Today’s tip is a natural progression from yesterday’s Tip Number Three. On Sunday, I argued that you should do a little research before signing up for a class, just so you know what you’re getting yourself into. But, what if you don’t know what you want? What if you’ve only just started writing, have never taken a class before, and you have no idea what to expect?
This in itself is not a bad thing. Often, not having any expectations is the best way to avoid disappointment. Although, one of the most frustrating things I hear from students when I ask ‘Why are you taking this class?’ is ‘I don’t know.’
I almost always ask this question in the first class. It helps give me a guide of where I should take the lessons; does the majority of the class need help with motivation? If so I’ll incorporate more in-class writing exercises. Is it a fairly mixed class, with some looking to finish a long project, while others are only beginning? If this is the case I try to put like-minded people in groups.
So when a student stares at me slack jawed and says, ‘I don’t know why I’m here’, I’m expecting the next series of sentences to be something like ‘Isn’t this the Health Clinic? How did I get here? Where’s my dog? Who am I?’
No one wakes up one day, having never written a line of fiction or even daydreamed about a plot for a story, and thinks, ‘I’m going to take a writing class.’ Unless you’re lost, there’s a reason you’re in that class.
Granted, knowing what you want out of a class doesn’t have to be specific; it can be as simple as ‘looking for guidance’ or ‘peer support’. Or, you could be looking for time to write, as you don’t get much time to yourself at home. Or maybe, you need the structure of a class in order to finish your project? Or, maybe you have very general questions about how to write? Your reasons need not be specific.
In case you’re reading this and thinking, ‘I still don’t know why I want to take a class’, I’ve listed below five questions you should ask yourself before starting a writing class:
1. Do I prefer to write poetry, prose, drama (scripts), or any combination thereof?
2. Would I prefer a specialised class (screenwriting, crime writing, novel writing, poetry, etc.) or one that has a more general focus?
3. At what level do I consider myself: beginner (having hardly ever written), regular writer but unpublished, published author (even if only on a small basis)?
4. Would I feel comfortable in, or even prefer, a class with others who were at different levels?
5. Do you prefer a more ‘lecture’ style of teaching, a workshopping approach, or a class that focuses primarily on in-class writing?
(If you’ve never taken a writing class before, you most likely won’t know the answer to this question. So, think of it this way: do you prefer to sit in the back and listen, to interact with a group, or do you need a little push towards productivity?)
If you’ve answered ‘I really and truly don’t know’ or ‘don’t care’ to any of these answers, then base your class preference on more practical information like class times, location, etc. However, most people will have a preference. Some people are very shy, and would hate a class that forces the students to read their work aloud, while some beginning authors may feel nervous in a class filled with published writers. By knowing what you want and doing a little research, you can find a class that’s perfect for you.
Tip Number One: Be Realistic
Tip Number Two: Stop Making Excuses
Tip Number Three: Research
Tip Number Five: Help from Friends
Tip Number Six: Ask for References
Tip Number Seven: Pay What You Can Afford
Tip Number Eight: Don’t Change the Class
Tip Number Nine: Tradtional or Online Learning?
Tip Number Ten: Keep and Open Mind