The truth is, no class can make you a writer. No seminar can, either. No guru. No text. They can inspire you to do better, but they cannot make you a writer.
Okay, maybe knowing Aristotle's poetics can help. Maybe reading "Save the Cat" taught me some things.
But what really improves writing... is thinking about doing it, and then doing it. Over, and over, and over.
How do I know this?
Because I cannot look back at any particular class or seminar I've ever taken and say, "Wow, that really took my writing to the next level." No. The repetition of writing, and the study of other things I like (and why I like them), and then more writing... these things have improved my writing. Period.
A word about being on a "creative journey": this is a nonsense phrase, and I reject it, entirely. This is a phrase somebody make up to sell you something. You're not on a journey. There is no end-of-the-rainbow. If you're writing, you're on a life-long slog. It's not a race, or a marathon, because again, those things have an end. When you're a writer, The End is when you die.
If writing comes flowing out of you, ideas come kicking and screaming out of you, and you can't stop them from coming, and they come out insisting for an audience in the larger world... then you are a writer.
If you think you might 'try it out' for a while and 'see what happens' and then 'move on to something else' if it 'doesn't work out'... NO. Just, no. I'm sorry, but you are not a writer. You are wasting your time, and you should probably go find something else to do with your time. Like bungie jumping. Or gardening. Or helping out at your local soup kitchen.
Because frankly it take a long time to get going. It takes a long, long time of writing into the void before 'something happens'. You cannot know this, of course, until you get going, and you see how impossibly long of a slog it is! So I'm writing this to save you some valuable time. Like people always say to actors, "If you can imagine yourself doing anything else... go do it." It's like that.
BUT.... if you spend weeks hating yourself because you can't seem to sit down and put any of your thoughts down, or you haven't had a decent idea in weeks and you're tempted to drown this hateful sorrow in a bottle of Jameson... then you are a writer. A frustrated one, perhaps, but a writer, nonetheless. If you can go whole years without a great idea, and then have a great idea, and then execute it... you are a writer.
If you spend time practicing when you're not inspired -- writing dumb stuff like blog posts and perfectly crafted work emails, in-between bursts of lucid creativity -- that also makes you a writer. If you spend days, also, procrastinating about this practicing, but then eventually you do sit down to practice, that also makes you a writer.
Basically, if the primary goal of your brain is to make things out of words, things that yesterday did not exist, and you are sullen and frustrated when you're not doing that... then you are a writer. If the primary goal of your brain is to 'work on something that will make me rich and famous like J.K. Rowling' ... stop. Just stop, and go into hedge funds.
And it doesn't matter if you write every day, or not. I used to; now, not so much. I'm still productive, all the same. What actually matters is that you can't stop thinking about it, and when you're not doing it you wish you were doing it, and that then eventually you do find time to do it. And there must always be some writing - and editing- that happens whether or not you feel inspired. And those things must happen without perfection. Especially once you've begun something, but the bloom of inspiration is off the rose; you must finish it. Otherwise, what are you doing?
Lots of writers wonder: how do you find the time? If you're not independently wealthy, and you have a job and kids and shit? You just do. You dig it up; you unearth it. You beg, borrow and steal that time. You turn off the internet, or go someplace where you don't know the wifi password and it's not written on the wall. And then you make something with that time. Not another angry FB post addressed to someone you don't know, not a meme (unless that's your thang), not giving up to go make the beds or do the dishes; but making a real THING with words that wan't there before you began.
Do not let anyone tell you that there is a such thing as a "creative journey". That phrase is an empty platitude meant to sell you something (a seminar, or a book), and it means nothing. There is no field of wildflowers for you to go running through as your stories come effortlessly forth from a magical fairy pen; that is bullshit. There is no beginning, middle, or end of this process, like there is on a hero's journey. It's not a journey because it never ends. Or, forgive me, it ends when you die.
"But what about when I get an agent?"
"But what about when I sell my first thing?"
"But what about when I win my first Emmy?"
"Isn't that the 'end' of my creative journey?"
No. NO. Unless somehow miraculously your words dry up after you win that Emmy, and all you want to do is sit in a rocking chair and pet cats or dogs from then on, NO. There is no end to it. It is not a hero's journey. You write hero's journeys, but as a writer, you do not live them.
Look. Writing is like living on a rollercoaster you can't get off of, and you didn't choose to get onto, in the first place. Most of the rollercoaster is that flat, boring part. And nobody's going to stop it, and let you off. So you ride through the flat, boring part, over and over and over... but if you can sit down at a computer, or with a pen and paper, when you're at the crest of the enormous hill, the almost-falling part, and write, when you're afraid and shaking, begging to be released, a childish, crying mess... then you've got something. And then, you also have to write when you're on that flat, boring part, too. And edit while you're down there, too. You have to learn to do both. Because if you only doing one, and not the other, your audience can tell. It's inside the writing, and they won't want to read it if you haven't written during both, during the whole ride, and during the next one that's coming, and the next, and the next.
And here's another "perk": If you're doing it right, if you are creating stories with an aim towards giving people purpose and hope, you must be able to see that MAYBE there might not be a point to life, in the first place. You are instilling people with purpose and hope. Which means they might not have it, to begin with. And they might not have it, because there might not be any inherent purpose, to life. Which means, as a writer, you sometimes will walk around knowing in your bones that none of it matters. This, friends, is a heavy burden, and if you can walk away now and do something else, go do it. Because walking around trying to instill hope and purpose is tough enough, without knowing, deep down, if there is a purpose? Oy. That's a dichotomy that's hard to live with.
Look. If there is a Kingdom of God, and I automatically get to go there when I die because I didn't murder or rape anybody, I'll beg to be forgiven for the sin of not thinking that life was all about getting to Heaven. And then I'll probably be forgiven, because that seems Godly. Though, I think that probably this isn't the way it works. At all. The way it probably works is that tiny nugget of hope inside me that clings to the childish idea that there is a heaven, is the heaven I'm thinking of. That the tiny piece of me that still writes to instill hope and purpose, despite that nagging feeling that it's all for nothing, that feeling is God. And the only way to live in the Kingdom of God is to live in it, now, when there is energy in my veins and stories in my heart. And the only way to live in that Kingdom of God forever, is to live in it NOW, so strongly, and use my gifts so vehemently, that my energy becomes immortal. And when the ashes of my body are spread out over the Pacific Ocean, the fish will take a nibble, and the man who catches and eats that fish will get a taste, and hope and purpose will be in the fish, and the man, and the ocean, and my life's work will be more than just words on the page, but the work of life and living that never ends.