To Pay, or Not to Pay

Saturday, April 26, 2008
Today, while watching my three-year-old son push his old, battered, blue engine along the tracks of a train table at Toys ‘R’ US, I ran into an old writing buddy. As her son joined mine at the train table, we started talking about, what else, writing. The topic soon turned to the value of writing classes. Why do we spend money on writing classes or programs?

I’m an ardent supporter of getting all the support that you can use and afford in your writing. I’m currently a student with the Institute for Children’s Literature and have a lot of faith in the program and my instructor. As I spoke with my friend at the toy store, I explained to her why I was willing to shell out the dough for my writing program. Simply put, I knew I wanted to become a professional writer and publish books for children, but I didn’t have a clue of how to do it. Not to mention, the confidence that I had in my writing at that time was at a deficit and I needed the support and eye of a professional. The flexibility that the ICL offers as a correspondence course was also a great selling point. So for me, the choice to enroll at the ICL was easy.

My writing buddy took a different approach to achieving her writing goals. She is reluctant to spend a large sum of money for a writing program. After taking an online course with Writer’s Digest, she opted to enroll in a short-term continuing education class at a local university. For her, the benefits of working with an instructor and other writers are very important. Though the time commuting to and from her class is tiring – she’s a single mom and works full-time – the camaraderie of the group is very rewarding. And the cost of the class doesn’t pinch her budget – too much.

The real test, in my opinion, of the value of writing courses, is whether your writing skills improve as a result of having participated in the course. Do you take away skills that enhance your craft, thus, your chances of breaking into print? Personally, I feel that my knowledge, skills, and confidence as a writer have enhanced tremendously since I started with the ICL last year. As for my friend, she’s happy with her class and the friendships that she’s made, but is looking for a little more – something more concrete – that will help her take her writing to the next level and learn about the publishing world.

So, what do you think about writing programs and courses? Do they add value your to skills and success as a writer? I’d love to hear about your experiences with writing programs of all stripes – MFA, correspondence, continuing ed, online, writer’s workshop, etc Does it pay to invest time and money into writing programs? Are some more useful than others?



Anonymous said...

I just started a Gotham Writers workshop online class. It was $400 and so far I am finding it very interesting. It's like a writers group in that you can interact and get feedback from other writers (students) and the instructor is excellent and accessible (and published!) The thing about taking a class is that you see things in your writing that you would never be able to see on your own. Like Einstein's (I think) comment: "A problem will never be solved at the same level in which it was created."

Shelli said...

I just found your blog.

I have only taken continuing ed. classes, and I got a lot out of those, especially because a few of them were taught by graduate students of the university's writing program. If I could afford it, I would love to get an MFA. But I am not willing, right now, to spend the money when I am not planning on an academic career, and I know that an MFA does not guarantee a good job. Still, if I could afford it, I think it would be great to be part of something - meet other writers and network. Get motivated. I think it might open some doors. But I don't think that all writing programs are good or necessary. The most important thing is to just keep writing and putting your work out there!

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