Writing classes: helpful or harmful?

Mary Carroll Moore wrote a post the other day about the importance of accountability in writing a book. According to her, there are two kinds of accountability:

  • internal: you put yourself in front of the keyboard and start writing every day and force yourself to keep going
  • external: you join writing groups or take classes

Granted, since she herself teaches a lot of classes, there is some self-interest in her promoting them as a writing aid. But after reading her blog, I suspect that she started teaching classes because she found that a way to help herself keep writing. Harder to slack off when someone is watching you, regardless of whether you’re a student or a teacher.

For myself, I find classes helpful to learn things about technique, but they do not help keep me writing. Indeed, I have found the opposite effect. One well-meaning critique about how “this is the way things should be done” threw me off stride for days. A teacher gently pointing out what she thought was a flaw made me question whether I should keep writing at all.

I have found classes and critiques to be helpful after I have written something. Not while I am in the process of writing it. Once I’ve gotten the story down, once I understand the characters and have a first draft of the scenes written out, then it helps to have someone point out what’s wrong with it. If I try to get input while I’m writing the story, I might as well put a bullet through the manuscript and be done with it.

Do you find classes helpful while you are writing? Do they keep you at the desk typing?

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