Beyond the Creative Writing Class…What Now? What Next?

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What can you do when your creative writing class ends? It’s often tough for writers to continue with their practice when a creative writing course ends. We realize what a luxury it is to have built-in deadlines and a captive audience to try to impress (or irritate, or enrage, etc.) with our work. These classes really can motivate us to do great work and increase the intensity we devote to the writing practice. Now, somewhat suddenly, you are on your own again as a writer, and it can be tempting to get lazy with your practice. Here are some ideas about things you can do to keep writing after the class is over:

Form or find a local or virtual writing group: Inquire with writers from class, the university community, or online about starting a writing group. You can set up a meeting schedule and place and figure out what you’d like to do (just share work and make deadlines, workshop pieces, encourage submission to publications, etc.).

Engage with a writing community by attending events and networking: Communities of writers exist everywhere and in every genre. Seek out events to attend and try to meet people in the community that interests you. For example, if you are into Slam or performance poetry, lots of Slams and Slam-related events happen around town. Make time to fit them into your schedule and participate in them, if possible.

Take another writing class or consider minoring or majoring in creative writing: After the English 227 Introduction to Creative Writing course, the creative writing offerings at ISU become genre-specific, meaning that you can take an intermediate-level course the focuses on poetry (247.01), prose fiction (247.02), or prose nonfiction (247.03).

Join the Euphemism editorial team: Euphemism is a great way to find out about the goings on of a literary publication. It can give you editorial experience for being the faculty moderator of a school literary magazine or yearbook, which can be a selling point when looking for teaching or publishing jobs. Euphemism staff members are also a supportive community of writers who often have workshops and writing sessions, etc. Getting on the Euphemism staff is a great co-curricular activity, especially if another creative writing class does not fit with your plan of study.

Determine what place writing has in your life: This class was designed to help you think outside the box and write in ways that do not come naturally. It is also meant to give you a taste of what the life of a practicing, professional (whatever that means) writer might be like. This lifestyle, however, is not for everyone. It is perfectly fine to have writing be a hobby or a therapeutic practice. Both of these ways of engaging with creative writing will keep you writing and may be a more practical way to have writing remain part of your life, rather than just something you did in that class way back when you were in college. Writing, like a trusty friend, is there when you need it.

Set goals and acknowledge milestones: Experts say that writing down short and long-term goals helps to actualize them, as they are then given a materiality through language that they don’t possess as a twinkle in your mind’s eye. What are your goals for your writing practice? To slam a poem at an open mic? To get published in Narrative or Creative Nonfiction or Poetry? To publish a book? Ten books? To win the National Book Award? No goal is too small or too outlandish to voice. Too, don’t forget to revel in how good it feels to write something that is, in your estimation, the best thing you’ve ever done or a piece that takes your writing in a new direction or up a notch. These moments, if you acknowledge them, are the best ones you can have as a writer, where so much of the rest of the reward system is external and, therefore, out of your control.

Stop writing: Oh my goodness, did I just write that? I realize that some students will never seek to write another creative piece after the course ends (although certain Texts from Last Night, Facebook statuses, Tumblr rants, and Twitter feeds would count, if you ask me). It’s OK to say creative writing isn’t for me, I guess. This is the part where I could launch into a tirade about how our society’s greatest war is against the imagination, and I could and probably will read the piece by Diane di Prima about that very topic, and I could say that even if you never write again, keep reading, and if you can’t read, then you should paint, or construct found-item collages, or sing, or play music, or dance, something to keep the imagination alive and flourishing within you.

Finally, it has been my pleasure to be in the vicinity of your creativities this semester. Don’t be strangers…

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