Flexible courses that helped me build confidence and skill
I want to be a writer.
No, I am a writer.
Wait, I don’t have a writing habit, so how can I be a writer?
These thoughts used to prey upon my ability to write. I knew I had things to say, but I didn’t think I was qualified. I subscribed to the notion that only those who are qualified should write.
But how do you get qualified if you don’t write?
One author I follow talks about how quantity produces quality. In essence, the practice develops the skills and leads to better writing.
So, how do you begin when you don’t have an English or Journalism degree? What if you don’t read and write every day? Do you still have something to offer?
We have to shatter this notion that one must already be amazing and “qualified” to produce art.
For instance, I love TikTok, and I recently came across an account talking about this problem. The guy wants to be an animator, but he can’t afford to go to the prestigious art school he wants. So, he started working and saving and learning animation to make money, to save up for this school. He talks about how funny it is that he has taught himself how to animate and saves the money he is making for this school.
His message is an inspiring highlight of how capable we are. It also points out our desire for the prestige that comes from formal education and certification.
Being that I am enrolled in school again, I can understand this drive.
There is a lot to learn in a formal setting, and some careers MUST have formal training. But for those of us who don’t necessarily need formal training, there are other avenues.
Fortunately, there are so many options. You could read books and establish a self-moderated practice. You could find a mentor or watch YouTube.
But, if you’re anything like me, you benefit from actively participating in a flexible course.
Here are some courses I personally tried that helped me find my footing.
Five Online Writing Courses
1. Coursera: Wesleyan University — Creative Writing Specialization
As mentioned on the site, “This Specialization covers elements of three major creative writing genres: short story, narrative essay, and memoir.” I completed The Craft of Plot and The Craft of Character. I was able to take these courses while teaching full-time. It gave me a way to connect to writing, and I quickly learned that I preferred non-fiction instead.
Still, these courses stretch your muscles, and the skills flow into other areas of your writing as well. These classes do have deadlines due to the emphasis on peer review. If you fall behind, it becomes harder to get peer reviews, and on more than one occasion, I had to start over. Enrollment options are every couple of weeks. With each enrollment date, you are writing and analyzing with other students.
The lectures were engaging, and the classes were challenging. The assignments allow practicing the craft and practicing thoughtful feedback. This helps identify and articulate strengths and weaknesses, which in essence helps your writing.
If you’re not ready for the full program, committing to one of these is an option. You receive a certificate at the end of each one completed. They offer financial aid too!
2. Skillshare — Creative Writing: Crafting Personal Essays with Impact — Roxane Gay
Love Gay’s work! Her honesty and eloquence inspired me to start writing about my own experiences. I read her books, listened to them, and analyzed a couple of her essays before taking this course.
This course is great because it’s guided by the author and is asynchronous –allowing for total flexibility with your schedule. She provides homework and a project. You can pick it up, come back to it, watch it again and again. She dissects some significant writing elements and helps the viewer understand the balance between inward and outward –something novice writers struggle with. She talks about honesty, research, and more. It’s a great glimpse into her world.
3. Udemy — Editing Mastery: How to Edit Writing to Perfection — Shani Raja
Shani Raja is a former Wall Street Journal editor. I strongly recommend this class to anyone who wants a professional grasp of editing and best practices.
This class is a bit dry but truly helpful in organizing the process and understanding how editing can powerfully shape writing–helping convey meaning and clarity. Raj’s example is both simple and complex enough to see how editing can transform a piece. He breaks it down in a way that is achievable for both a novice and a more experienced writer. He provides exercises that allow student practice.
The lazy student could learn just by watching. However, I recommend going along and doing the exercises to put the work into practice. I can’t recommend it enough! It’s also one of the bestselling courses!
5. Ayodeji Awosika’s Writing Course
I came across this course a while ago. I noticed this guy kept popping up on my main page. He posts a lot of inspiration and self-help, which I thought I was too cool for. Until I realized, wait, he must know something I don’t know. He produces a lot of inspiring content and gets a lot of recognition. I decided to take his course.
Many of his points still stand out to me, but one in particular regarding the idealistic writer’s snobbery and how it can be limiting when what you really need is practice.
He makes good points about how we all have something to offer, and he breaks his process down completely. As a champion for the underground writer, he has strong sales and marketing knowledge which is undeniably important for an online writer. This class is useful.
I am back in school, and if it weren’t for these courses, I would probably still be at my old job, watching others write and feeling jealous. These are great options for anyone who doesn’t want to go back to school, yet or ever, but who wants to learn and practice.
Get out there and sign up for a course! You’ll be surprised how that one change can lead to more changes. Happy learning.