Instead of studying Creative Writing…

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I majored in Creative Writing during my stint in college. In one of my regular English classes, that focused on teaching grammar of all things (who does that?), we had a published author come as a guest speaker one day. After class, offhandedly, he commented, “Majoring in Creative Writing is the worst thing you can do as a writer.” He advised me to switch majors immediately.

I can’t remember his name or the title of the book he wrote. Shame, really, because that was probably the best advice I’ve ever gotten.

If you’re on this journey, don’t read books or websites that teach creative writing. Just don’t.

Learn grammar. Learn what prepositions and interjections are. Watch School House Rock. Internalize it. Use it all the time, even when texting. Embrace being seen as snooty. Words are your medium, and you need to understand how to use them correctly. Just don’t turn into a “grammar nazi” who compulsively hyper corrects everyone else — people hate that. Part of the rich complexity of English is that it can, and often does, accommodate oddities and mishmashing, so learn how to use that effectively.

Read non-fiction. I particularly like self-help books, as they tend to be a rich reservoir of foibles and psychology, wrapped up in layman’s descriptions that are easy to understand. And hey, if I happen to also benefit from it, all the better. These sorts of books will give you a better understanding of how to create realistic characters than worksheets ever will.

And of course, research your genre. Don’t write a Highlander romance based entirely off of all the other Highlander romance novels you’ve read; find a history book about Scotland first. This is especially important if you are writing in one of the realistic genres; its easy to alienate those who could be your most loyal fanbase if you completely misrepresent their field.

Finally, practice. Write all the time. Write about everything. Write and rewrite. Write. Write. Write. Compose stories in your head while you’re at the dentist or driving in your car. Don’t start judging anything until the 2nd or 3rd drafts; instead, enjoy the flow of creativity. Just frickin’ write!

You’ll learn far more than Creative Writing classes will teach you.

One comment

  1. Read non-fiction. I particularly like self-help books, as they tend to be a rich reservoir of foibles and psychology, wrapped up in layman’s descriptions that are easy to understand. – I’ve never thought to do this. Good idea!

    Liked by 1 person

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