Op-ed: Why Everyone Should Take a Writing Class

This piece was originally published Fall 2020.

For the fall semester of my senior year, I decided to take two creative writing classes, prose writing and fiction writing, and I’m absolutely loving it!

I’ve always enjoyed writing, no matter what I was writing about. I’m the type of person who prefers to write the research paper for class rather than taking the exam. From papers to short stories to even just my books reviews on Goodreads, I love to write! Yet it had never occurred before this year to take a professional writing class. Looking at my schedule and seeing what classes I had to take to finish my general requirements and my communications major, I wanted to have a nice balance of coursework and see what classes I could take that would leave me feeling the least stressed as possible. 

Then it hit me. Creative writing classes count towards my major and I love to write. Why not take a class about something I love to do that could also help me develop a vital skill for the job market? So come registration time, I signed up for prose and fiction writing with Dr. Mary Beth Pope. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and they’ve easily become two of my favorite classes I’ve taken during my Emmanuel College career. 

These classes are challenging but not in the way you might think. It’s not challenging in the traditional sense of heavy course work or confusion over the topic you’re learning that week. It’s challenging in that the classes make you write about topics you’d never write about otherwise and requires you to really explore your creative side. 

“While I am majoring in biology and neuroscience, I heavily considered majoring in English and I love how this class gives me an opportunity to think creatively and utilize language in a way that can’t be achieved in science courses,” says Isabella Schichter ‘22. “I think all students should take a writing class because writing is a universally important skill that all majors need. Also, it’s just a fun, creative outlet!”

“It gives students the chance to enter into a creative headspace they may not have ever entered into before,” says Mary Pociask ‘21. “A lot of these classes allow you to tap into skills you didn’t know you could have. Before my fiction writing class I had never written creative pieces and was worried I would feel behind, however, Professor Pope sets up the class in such a way that you learn as you go and again are able to tap into skills you may have not known you had before.”

So far I’ve submitted a personal essay and one short story and my experience writing them has been unlike any other experience I’ve had when writing an academic essay, a research proposal or even a book review. Despite the challenge to my creativity that these pieces have required from me as a writer, I’ve learned so much about myself and my writing capabilities. 

Even the formats of these classes are different from any other class I’ve taken at Emmanuel. For each unit, we begin by reading several examples of the story or essay we’ll be working on from varying authors. Then as we begin to formulate our ideas and what we wish to talk about in our stories, we discuss our ideas with our classmates. 

While it can certainly be a bit intimidating to put your work out for critique from your classmates, especially if it’s something personal, it really helps to improve your writing. We’re all in the same boat when it comes to workshops and no one is there to harshly judge your writing. In fact, comments and suggestions would be a more appropriate term than critique because not only does everyone highlight what could be altered, but they also highlight the strengths of your piece and what some of the better examples of your writing and your story are. 

“My favorite part of teaching is watching students muddle through the mess of their ideas and emerge with a clear story to tell,” says Professor Mary Beth Pope. “That process is both mysterious and also—to a certain extent—predictable.  Students are always going to begin by feeling overwhelmed by the mammoth task of organizing their ideas, which is the mysterious part, but with specific and targeted guidance, they learn to organize them confidently and tell a good story.  It’s so exciting to be part of that process—to watch a student grapple with something that feels out of control, and then learn to bring it under control and shape it intentionally.”

Aside from the fun I have in these classes, they’ve also taught me how to develop a valuable skill and the importance of being able to effectively write. Writing is such an excellent skill to have and it’s something that all employer’s look for in their workers. If you can write, then you can get a job anywhere. 

“At the most basic level, students should take a writing class before they graduate because most businesses say the one skill their employees lack is the ability to write well,” says Professor Pope. “When you’re interviewed, you need to know how to tell a story about why you’re right for a particular job.  And when you get the job, you need to learn how to tell the story of the place where you work, and why what you do is important. So storytelling matters.”

Even in fields that don’t seem like writing and storytelling would be used at all, like science or economics, it is. Writing makes up such a large component of our work, no matter our field, and being able to effectively write and communicate is a skill that all people can appreciate. 

So here’s my recommendation, if it’s not already obvious; if you have the room in your schedule, take a writing class! Whether it’s a more creative class like poetry or fiction writing, or a more professional/non-fiction class like prose writing, the class will help you to become a better writer and storyteller for the world after college. 

“Taking Prose Writing has really enhanced my creative thinking skills,” says Isabella Schichter ‘22. As an applicant, not only do I come from a strong science background, but I have the skills to precisely articulate my ideas and can think creatively about problems and solutions. Also, thanks to the workshops, I feel more confident being able to both give and receive critique.”

“I have become a more concise and better writer overall after taking these courses,” says Alexis Scrima ‘21. “Any job needs good writers, whether it is emails, briefings, etc., you need good writing skills. I feel as though with my past two internships I have been able to use my writing skills in a way that best fits the role I am in and adapt the things I have learned in those classes and apply them to real life situations.”

Katie Hayes is the Managing Editor for The Hub. She can be contacted at hayesc@emmanuel.edu.