4 Things I Learned From My College Writing Program

Monday, July 10, 2017

It has officially been two months since I graduated college and completed the undergraduate creative writing program. After reading blogs listing the pros and cons of writing programs, I found myself reflecting on what I learned from four years in my own undergraduate program. In the end, I came up with four things I learned from my writing program that I think could be helpful to all writers.

Your first draft will be crap, but your instincts will let you know what is wrong with it.

Doing a writing program on top of all the other things college entails can be difficult. I have definitely turned in some lackluster workshop material (see this post for more info). One thing I have learned over and over again through workshops and peer review is that your first draft is never completely right. First drafts are made to get your creative mind working and to get the story down, so it is okay if it is not perfect.

The great thing that comes with doing many first drafts and workshops is writer instincts. My instincts grew to the point that I could always tell what was possibly wrong with my draft. Maybe the draft was unfocused, or the characters were underdeveloped. Either way, something inside me knows when something is off, which is a big help when it comes to revising.

Constructive criticism is key. Always be kind.

I have been on both sides of the table when it comes to workshops, the writer and the critic. What is important to remember is everyone deserves kind, honest criticism. I have been in workshops where a writer was destroyed for nothing and made them question their ability. No one should ever feel like that when they are a growing writer.

The important thing to remember when critiquing someone's work is to give critiques that you would find helpful also. Save comma nitpicking for line editing. Instead focus on the big picture. One professor told me to always find two good things about a piece and one thing that needs improvement. I think this is a good rule of thumb to start with.

All work needs a deadline.

If I miss anything from my writing program, it would be the deadlines. They kept me on track and made sure I was always writing, which is something I have struggled with since graduation. Setting deadlines is essential for getting content done for me. Being an extreme procrastinator, I find that setting deadlines for myself through myWriteClub helps me be more productive because I can track my progress and feel a sense of urgency to get content done.

Reading for inspiration is essential.

Another wise thing a professor of mine said is “don’t work in a vacuum.” While most writers are voracious readers, it can be hard to fit everything in with full-time jobs, house duties, and writing time. Let me encourage you again to continue to read a wide variety of books to boost your inspiration. It will not only inspire you, but may become great models for your work.

I hope you enjoy the small bits of wisdom I gained from my college writing program. Feel free to comment your own writing wisdom below!

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