13 Things To Know Before You Take Your First Creative Writing Class

by Melissa Ragsdale

I was lucky enough to take my first creative writing class in high school, and I was instantly hooked. I went on to take classes in college, and then even after I graduated. So, if you're about to start your first creative writing class, I am so excited for you.

But, what is creative writing class, anyway? How does that even work? When I took my first class, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Creative writing is not taught like your typical school subject, but it's not a complete blow-off elective either. And of course, every teacher does things in their own way.

I also didn't realize until I took one how amazingly valuable a creative writing class can be. I used to think that writing was purely a solo activity. You sat at your desk and put some words down on paper, and that was that. But the truth is that writing classes are great ways to build a community, learn some tricks of the trade, and produce new work. No matter how you're embarking on your creative writing journey, there are some things that you can expect to find in any creative writing class you take:


Other people are going to be reading your work.

Most creative writing classes are based on the roundtable system, in which your fellow students will read your work and provide commentary. Wait, don't freak out! It can be really daunting to share your work with others, especially for the first time, but you may come to love the roundtable. Most people will be super respectful of your efforts, and it's helpful to be able to test ideas out on different readers. Plus, sometimes the hardest part of being a writer is recognizing what is working, and you'll be amazed to learn which parts of your writing your peers love. Trust me, I always leave a round table feeling inspired and empowered.


You will have deadlines.

Deadlines can be both a blessing and a curse. For me, having a deadline helps me get the work done. But, I acknowledge, they can be stressful.


You will have to write new material.

I think some people expect that they can just coast through on writing they've already done, or that they can just work on one short story and submit revisions of it again and again. There may be some classes where that's okay, but even so, one of the most fulfilling parts of creative writing classes is challenging yourself to write something new, and to keep writing.


You will probably have reading assignments.

This was a huge surprise to me when I first started taking creative writing classes. One of the best ways to get better at writing is to read, and many creative writing teachers will give you reading assignments.


Creative writing class is a great place to step out of your comfort zone.

Try writing in a new genre! Try writing a screenplay or a poem or a novel! I like to think of creative writing class as the writer's version of a science lab, where you can experiment on anything you want and see how it turns out. You're going to be delightfully surprised by what you're able to do.


You might get prompts, and you might not.

Most of my creative writing teachers have been super lenient with writing assignments. In my experience, teachers have left the decision up to me, which can be both freeing and intimidating. So before you start class, it might be a good idea to the think about what you want to write. (But also remember, it's always okay to ask your teacher for help if you're stumped!)

On the flip side, sometimes teachers do throw in a prompt or two, and it's easy to feel boxed in. In that case, think of the prompt as a challenge, and try to stretch the box in whatever way you can. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to stick to the prompt exactly. Just try to have fun!


You don't need any previous writing experience.

There are going to be some people in your class who have been writing since they emerged from the womb, and some people who haven't written anything in their life. Wherever you're at is where you're supposed to be. (Though, of course, more advanced classes will have prerequisites.)


You will make some of your best friends in creative writing class.

Creative writing classes are amazing communities. The work of writing is usually a solitary an difficult one, so it feels amazing to connect with other people who are going through the same process. Plus, sharing your work will give you a super tight bond.


You're going to read some stuff you don't like, and that's okay.

You'll find a huge variety in the writers taking class with you. Every writer has different tastes, different styles, and different skill-levels. Not everything you read is going to be right for you as a reader, but that doesn't mean it's bad. Remember, even if it's not your usual cup of tea, have an open mind and be respectful. Concentrate on the craft of the piece and giving constructive criticism. And always find something positive to say.


Not everything you submit has to be perfect.

Of course, put your best foot forward and work hard on the pieces you submit to class. But you'll save yourself a lot of heartache if you keep in mind that each piece you submit is just a draft, not the final version. The point is to find things about it to improve! There's really no such thing as a "mistake."


You don't have to be a professional writer to get a lot out of creative writing class.

My high school creative writing teacher used to have us start and end each semester by filling out a self-evaluation. One of the questions was what our commitment-level was, ranging from "Hobby" to "Passion." You don't have to be at the passion level to enjoy a creative writing class. In my opinion, creative writing classes are great no matter your level of experience.


But you'll only get as much out of it as you put into it.

The point of creative writing class is not to get a good grade. Your own sense of fulfillment is contingent upon the time and care you put into your assignments, class discussion, and review of your peers' work.


Don't forget to have fun!

One of the classic traps is to take writing too seriously. Don't lose sight of how freakin' fun it is to be creative.