What’s the Point of Taking a Useless Class


If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

– Maya Angelou

So what’s the point of taking a useless class?

When I was a runt, little high school brat, I took my first college class, Creative Writing I.   At the threshold of gaining my Associates in Arts, so that I may transfer and to a University and achieve my Bachelors of Arts in English with a concentration in Professional Writing, I decided to take Creative Writing for a refresher.  I figured that an English literature course (the study of stories scribed in the English and how, perhaps, the artist who penned it used or inventive an innovative writing technique to produce a great story that has lasted the ages) and how writers are taught to pen a story would be two different standards.  At first, I was excited to take this course for several reasons.  I hoped to brush up my skills, to meet other people who are serious about the craft, and to workshop some of my work in an academic environment.

I am no stranger to the craft.  I have been writing since the fifth grade.  Dreaming tales of heroism, sword and sorcery, and deranged horror, but most of all, playing god, I love to oversee and create.  I am not the best writer by any means on any standard, but I feel like, a preacher hears his call from god, that this is my calling. 

I conquered Creative Writing twice in high school.  My local college does not offer Creative Writing II, so the second time was for a much need elective to get me my 8 X 11 slip of $32 dollar paper that I successfully graduated, which my local school board forgot to file.  Therefore, now, I have no record of it, irony.  I continued to write during my service to the United States Army.  One of chief reason for joining was for experience to write about the suffering I put myself through, so that when I wrote about wars the psychological context would feel real, read real.  The greatest stories are the ones that make laugh, or make you cry.  I have earned experience with the creative word in courses in Writer’s Digest Workshops and Gotham. I have had the honor of being part of so many writing groups that I cannot keep them straight while thinking about which is which.

Realizing now, as it is, with trying to create a creative writing group for Haywood Community College, that not many people are truly interested in wanting to pen a book, story, or hone their skills.  I have met some outstanding writers, but made no friends.  No one at least that would like to work with me and the two who seem to show talent are only taking Creative Writing I with me now for elective credit.

The structure of this class is not set up write.  It is not even a real workshop environment.  We are using Janet Burroway’s “Imaginative Writing: The Elements of the Craft” as our manual.  It is an all right guide, with adequate information, but it is not as good as Alice LaPlantes “The Making of a Story” from Norton.

The class runs a little bit like this:  We receive on Monday our assignment, which consist of almost all the writing exercises from the chapter of book, plus three to five that my instructor comes up with.  This can add up to 10-20 exercise; which if the book asks for a page, we are asked for a paragraph, or if it asks for a paragraph, we are asked for a story.  I have been writing up 20,000-30,000 words a week and my writing skill and creativity feels stagnant.

In class, we read our writing exercises.  These must bore the teacher to sleep, because that is all she does as we read them.  Yet, she wakes up in time to say that was powerful, or great imagery.  Maybe she is just absorbing the story making snoring sounds. 

Do not get me wrong.  I really like the instructor as a person, but this class is not set up right.  We should be lectured on the theory of what we are reading, and discussing what we feel works and what does not.  We should be receiving one to, maybe, three prompts a week that we can really focus on.  A painter does not just sketch out his lines and not attempt to add color and detail, and then move on to do another, and another.  There is no worth in not trying to be great with what we are doing, and it is hard to be great when you are writing 100 small pieces of nothing a week.  I am four weeks behind and feel like catching up will be the academic death of me. 

This class is doing as good as heroin does for a meth-head.  I did not pay three hundred dollars to read a book and write all of the prompts within it and receive no feedback or critique.  I could have done all that on my own time.  Now I ponder whether I should drop the class or not.  What do you think by the information I have gave you?

What’s the point of taking a useless class?  Well, that’s something only we can answer for ourselves.

Posted on October 13, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Every time I see blogs as good as this because I should stop bludging and start working on mine.Thanks

  2. Hah, that’s exactly how my creative writing instructor worked his class in high school. I was so pissed! >.< Like you, I may not be great but I know more than someone who sat down for the first time in his life and said "Know what? I'm going to write a poem." lol So obviously I was expecting to know most of what we were going to learn already. But all it was was like "Here's your concept. Write something." we'd have a day to write it, come back, read it, the students would look at you like deer in headlights and ask "What was that about?" and if it was anything deeper than a flower or a cat or "love" they wouldn't get it and say your poem was crap. And the instructor never explored different themes with us, just taught us a few forms a few meters and a few poetic tools. That class was a joke!

    • I actually went to her and asked if I could give my opinion and she says she really wants to redo the class now. I am so excited, but still, I don’t feel like I have learned anything more than I did.

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