For years, I’ve had my eye on this local writing school here in Los Angeles. I get an email every time they post new classes and every time I click to peruse the options, but I never signed up, until a few weeks ago. I registered for a writing class called The Art of Short Story. We had our first class last Thursday.
I know exactly why I waited so long. I felt like, with my masters degree in writing, and the eight years I have studying the topic, I wasn’t sure what I would get out of a writing class. But I knew one thing was pretty much certain. I knew if I signed up for a short story class, I would be expected to produce at least one short story, and I’ve been wanting to start some new ideas, to get my creative juices flowing.
So there I was, last Thursday night, in the teacher’s living room, and I might have been skeptical that we weren’t meeting in a real classroom, but I was too distracted by her bookshelves. Her place was packed with bookshelves, and I recognized a few of the spines, so I figured that was a good start.
Then we went around the room, each of us saying why we had signed up for the class. More than one of the students said they had always thought maybe they’d like to write something, so they decided to take the class. That seemed like a bit of a red flag, but then a few of my fellow students are working on novels, or have written in another genre. There was a pretty wide range of experience. There’s even an LA Times journalist, which is SUPER cool.
So I decided to put my ego aside and engaged in the class. I mean, it’s not like I’m some world-famous writer or something. And as things progressed, I remembered why these kinds of classes are so valuable.
Hone Your Critical Skills
First of all, reading and discussing other people’s work is a great way to hone one’s own internal editor. In my experience, reading unpublished work in particular helps us, as writers, to see our own unpublished work in a new light. Check out this piece I wrote for David Villalva’s blog on the topic.
Be With People
Second, and arguably more important, is the community that forms in this kind of class. Writing is such a solitary activity. We need other writers, not just for their feedback and critiques (though those are important). As humans, we need interaction with other humans. That’s just a fact. The fastest way to invite crippling depression is to sit alone in a room all day, day after day, by one’s self. Trust me. I know.
And the type of people who sign up for a class like this are my kind of people. I don’t care if they’ve never actually written a word. They WANT to write. They are called to it, and so they are my kind of people.
One of my hopes for this class was that it would help me get the creative juices flowing and for that reason I am really excited about the format. We are reading The Best American Short Stories 2016, and every week we are to write 500 words inspired by one of the stories assigned. On top of that, we will each turn in a 10 page story and, later, a 20 page story for critique. So, in the ten weeks of the class, I should come away with at least 10 new inchoate stories.
It feels good to be starting new stories. I probably won’t finish most of them, but a few may become viable shorts, and maybe one will evolve into something longer. Only time will tell.
When was the last time you took a writing class? What was it like? Were you satisfied with the results?