I know, I know. It’s not what you want to hear. Eager young writers would love to know that there’s somewhere they can go, someone they can pay money, to become a better writer. Well, the sad truth is that no one but you can make you a better writer. Actually, hang on. Back up a step. Let’s start with the basics: You’re either a good writer or you’re not. No course, seminar, or meaningful input will change that.
Talent aint learned. Hell, it aint even earned. It’s innate and develops from passion and a commitment to the craft. Sure, there are ways to disguise a lack of talent, tart it up like some average-looking porn star transformed into an object of lofty desire by the magic of too much make-up and good lighting. That’s why so many movies and t.v. shows are utter shit. Blame the perfect storm of: a) untalented hacks who have managed to charm their way onto a writing gig, b) the inability of the people hiring them to differentiate between a good script and a bad one, and c) an audience’s willingness to settle for crap. 99% of any production’s problems can be addressed at the script stage. It’s just a matter of finding a scriptwriter able to do the job – and the people willing to let him/her do it.
Where was I? Oh, yeah: creative writing classes. When I call them bullshit, I’m not saying they’re a complete waste of time. If nothing else, they force you to write and, after all, it’s the act of writing that makes you a better writer. Of course, one could argue that a writer who can’t motivate him or herself to write has no business being a writer, but I’ll admit that there have been times when I’ve felt unmotivated. It usually happens when I’m distracted by something I’d much rather be doing like reading a book, napping, or picking the dog crap off my back lawn. Writing can be hard. It can be frustrating. But so are most jobs. I bet that a lot of office workers would, all things being equal, prefer an extra half hour of lunch to photocopying and collating Herb’s fucking presentation. So, in that respect, creative writing classes can be worthwhile. Especially if you’re very lazy.
Now that I think of it, creative writing classes can also help by providing a venue in which to receive honest feedback on your work – as opposed to the sugarcoated lies your friends or family will feed you. I don’t care if Aunt Mildred loved it, your third act twist is forced and contrived. And the jaguar attack in the second act is fucking stupid. You need someone to tell you these things. You need the unvarnished critique that only a disinterested stranger can truly provide.
So, I stand corrected. They’re not total bullshit. If you’re lazy and are surrounded by dishonest friends and family members, then you may derive some benefit from a creative writing course.
Seminars, on the other hand – now THEY are total bullshit!