?

were you/are you being taught how to write?

  1. yes, i took/am taking college writing courses and/or have an english degree

    11 vote(s)
    17.5%
  2. no, i learned on my own

    52 vote(s)
    82.5%
  3. i had/have a private tutor

    1 vote(s)
    1.6%
  4. took/taking online course/s only

    2 vote(s)
    3.2%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon

    were you 'taught' or did you learn to write on your own?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by mammamaia, Jan 6, 2013.

    a new member's introduction post just made me wonder how many of our members actually went the 'higher education' route vs self-taught ones like me, who simply learned to write by reading...

    if anyone has reliable stats on this in re successful authors, i'd be interested in knowing the percentages there, too...
     
  2. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    I have an English degree, so we were taught things like Aristotle, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Romantic poetry and such, Literary Theory, Linguistics and Creative Writing. I've been writing all my life though, so I wasn't 'taught' how to write in university, it just fixed some of the amateurish flaws in my writing because it was a workshop. I don't consider myself either self-taught, or of the 'higher education' route. My degree represents for me a knowledge of philosophy, the literary canon, and theory which is helpful with my writing but ... I would have been writing anyway.
     
  3. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    I should qualify my 'self-taught' answer, I suppose, because I did take a couple creative writing classes in high school. But I wrote my first story in grade school...
     
  4. evelon
    Offline

    evelon Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2009
    Messages:
    613
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    England
    I was writing as a child. My mother was my greatest asset. She read to us from the minute we came home from hospital and introduced us to some great works. She had a 'feel' for words and I think - I hope - it's rubbed off. Education is good, but instinct is better. If you can manage to acquire both, then you are very lucky.
     
  5. midnight candle
    Offline

    midnight candle Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2013
    Messages:
    29
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    England
    i've been writing for seven years, but in the last three years i've been studying english literature/creative writing at the open university. i was a published writer before the course, but more successful since.
     
  6. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    I took one creative writing class in college, but I mostly learned writing just by reading.

    I've noticed that quite a few of my favorite contemporary authors have taken part in a creative writing program. There certainly does seem to be a trend towards enrolling in creative writing programs, and some of these programs actually seem to be quite good. For example, the creative writing program at The University of Iowa has produced a lot of great writers (multiple Pulitzer Prize winners, National Book Award winners, etc.).
     
  7. .Mark
    Offline

    .Mark Member

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2012
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I guess I'd say I'm self taught. I read a lot when I was younger, and I wrote my first short story in grade school. I learned most of my spelling and grammar from using forums over the years, and I've read enough books and watched enough movies to understand what makes an interesting story.

    My issue has always been confidence. I'm hoping I can rectify that here by getting some proper constructive criticism.
     
  8. Trilby
    Offline

    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,098
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    NE England
    Self taught.

    Because of an unconventional life style I had little schooling only going to school for 3mths of the year and I left school when I reached 15.
     
  9. evelon
    Offline

    evelon Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2009
    Messages:
    613
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    England
    I found the best thing about being part of a creative writing class was that, because I felt that I needed to compete with the others, I knew I needed to raise my game. It taught me to be disciplined and not to let anything slip by through laziness or a 'that'll do' attitude. It also made me search further afield for ideas. Good, too, to have others to talk to who understand the relevance of semi-colons. So sad.
    I'm still part of a writing group and find great support and a continuous flow of ideas. I'd recommend it for anyone.
     
  10. Hwaigon
    Offline

    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2012
    Messages:
    628
    Likes Received:
    139
    Location:
    Second to the right, and straight on till morning.
    Does the quality of the course come into play ??? See, I can imagine it more difficult thatn it actually was, but still, I took it,
    passed it and have a Bc degree... so, yeah.
     
  11. evelon
    Offline

    evelon Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2009
    Messages:
    613
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    England
    Depends on how you judge the quality I suppose. I think anything that gets your grey cells working and helps you create is helpful. Writing is a developing art, no matter how long you've been writing or how old you are. There's always something to learn and always improvements to make. So anything's good. As long as it's not bad, at least.
     
  12. mg357
    Offline

    mg357 Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2012
    Messages:
    368
    Likes Received:
    33
    I learned to write on my own.
     
  13. peachalulu
    Online

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,829
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    I'm self taught. I went to a school that was more interested in dramatics than English.
    When I was fourteen, I started reading classics on my own and wrote every day. I've
    read tons of how-to-write books but I'm always wary of the authors advice finding
    most of it pushes formulatic stories rather than releasing creativity. I often wonder
    if I made a mistake in my education but life is too short for regrets.
     
  14. Talmay
    Offline

    Talmay Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2013
    Messages:
    94
    Likes Received:
    1
    Everyone knows how to write. The difference is that some people seek to improve.

    Which is a fancy way of saying I was self-taught, I guess.
     
  15. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,724
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    I'm self-taught, basically. I have taken writing classes online, but I did that only to see how I compared with others. It turns out that there are very talented people out there writing!

    But I wrote a TON of stuff before I ever took a course in writing. I was writing when I was ten or so, imitating my idols of the time (sci-fi guys like Heinlein and Clarke). I started training myself to write well when I discovered poetry, particularly Robinson Jeffers.

    I think you can't learn unless you know what you want to learn. Forcing information into a non-receptive brain doesn't work. But if and when that brain becomes receptive, watch out!
     
  16. Hwaigon
    Offline

    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2012
    Messages:
    628
    Likes Received:
    139
    Location:
    Second to the right, and straight on till morning.

    Sure you're right, but I asked in connection to mammamia's poll...whther my voice counts, whther she takes it
    for legitimate answer.
    I opted for "I took a course..."

    'that'll do' attitude is... a way to damnation, at least in my case. Making the most out of the situation and what the world has to offer you
    is the way to go, same for searching far afield. :) I hold the same approach and it'll hopefully help me with my final thesis. It already has,
    for that matter.
     
  17. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Everyone is self-taught. Sure, students can be drilled to accumulate facts by rote, but learning a skill requires active participation by the learner. A teacher can only serve as a guide.

    Taking the question at face value, though, I have taken a few writing courses at the college level. None of them were in-depth, though, and I don't think they contributed materially to my development as a writer. Most of what I have learned, I have learned on my own by practice, and by critical reading of literature, from outstanding to atrocious.

    I haven't voted in the poll. Without explanation, I don't think any vote I could make would be meaningful.
     
  18. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    I didn't vote either, and for this exact reason.
     
  19. BallerGamer
    Offline

    BallerGamer Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2010
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    1
    I was writing at 11, but although I wrote a lot of short stories most of my writing time was dedicated to reviews. I loved watching movies, playing video games, and I wanted people to know my opinion of them. So I submitted them across different websites and became a staff member in some, all of them defunct now though. What was critical for me though was when I participated in review competitions. My competitors were all significantly older than me and gave me invaluable information for forming my craft.

    One that I learned that helped me a ton was that there was this one reviewer who was heads and shoulders above everyone else. He won every single time he participated. There was one contest where he got third place, and said he blamed not writing the review in one sitting, instead spreading the writing throughout an entire week. That opened my eyes to writing in the "same head". Hard to explain but when you write something one week, and then look at it a month later, you have a different head. That taught me that if I was ever to revise something it has to be in one sitting.
     
  20. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,238
    Likes Received:
    1,806
    Location:
    Australia
    I think Facebook has proven that many people have no idea how to write.
     
  21. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    I started with really bad poetry when I was about 10, and writing comedy sketches with my best friend all throughout primary school. I read since I was 3. I always loved reading. Then I wrote my first 2 " novels" when I was 14. I thought they were fantastic but really they were horrible. I was taught some creative writing in school and had my first story published in student paper. It was about Jack the Ripper and his mum, it was really funny, black comedy style. I was very involved with school theatre too, wrote screenplays for them and sort of managed what teacher would let me (to snatch the best role, etc :D).
    I was incredibly well read due to the schooling system. I read all the classics and lots of philosophy as well as loads of fiction by the time I went to Uni. I was also writing rudimentary screenplays because I was going to be a film director/screen writer. But I ended up studying something completely different when I moved abroad at the end of high school. Since then I wrote non- fiction of different kinds (reports, essays, case studies, research papers here and there). I wrote quite a bit of fiction recently, before I decided to teach myself a crash course in novel writing with the help of a few books. And now I am writing my 'first novel.

    Lovely question, thanks for the walk down the memory lane :)
     
  22. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I also have to agree with Cog, here. I can't really answer without explanation. My first thought was that I am self-taught, and the most obvious distinction that I usually hear is the possession of an MFA in Creative Writing, which I do not have. I've most frequently heard that the MFA is essential only if you want to *teach* writing, but not necessarily if you just want to write. My B.A. is in Political Science, not English and I also have a J.D., which required a lot of writing, but not so much creative.

    I did, however, take two writing classes (three if you count the intro to writing class that all Freshmen were required to take, but I don't count that one) in college. I took one in Persuasive Writing (which I actually had forgotten I'd taken until I was forcing my brain to think about some college classes recently) and one in Fiction Writing. I also wrote a weekly column in the student newspaper. But then I didn't write anything fun, fictional, or creative for about 20 years. Then I took a 4 week and then an 8 week long, once a week course on writing offered at our local bookstore, and taught by a local author who did have an MFA and had taught college writing classes, although this was not a college writing class and did not provide any credit, nor was it affiliated in any way with a university. It was really more of a workshop than a class. I feel like I learned through critiquing and through reading.

    I've been contemplating taking an online course, but have not yet done so.

    So, I'll leave it up to you, Maia, to determine where you think my answer best fits.
     
  23. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,238
    Likes Received:
    1,806
    Location:
    Australia
    I learned to write by writing. That sounds like a smartass reply, but it's true. I'm not a 'reader', nor have I ever been. I read some things now and then, usually a few chapters at most, but I'm certainly not what some people would consider 'a reader'. This actually makes it quite difficult to guage if what I'm writing works.
     
  24. Talmay
    Offline

    Talmay Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2013
    Messages:
    94
    Likes Received:
    1
    It's still writing. Just really bad writing.
     
  25. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Social media are to writing as game shows are to intellect. For every Jeopardy, there are a couple dozen Wipeouts.

    Back on topic, nearly every field I have studied has been primarily self-study. I did study chemistry in college before I worked as a research chemist, but even there, I studied more chemistry on my own than I did in formal classes. My next career, computer science, was almost entirely self-study.

    So that's me. No surprise that my writing would also be essentially self-taught.
     

Share This Page