"What formal writing experience do you have (classes, degrees, majors/minors)? Did it shape your writing? Have you ever considered getting an MFA?"Lydia's answer is here, and Laura Diamond's is here. Deb will be up next week.
As for me ... I'm going to be completely honest here.
I never considered myself an exceptionally creative persion. I was quite verbally precocious and always a good student, so writing assignments were always easy for me. I was just never one of those people who kept a journal or wrote poetry or dreamed of being a writer.
Then I got to college ... and became best friends with a girl who I still believe is one of the most gifted poets/writers/artists I've ever met. I watched her create the most beautiful things, often with only words. And, you know, for a while I thought maybe wanted to do it, too, but geez. I can't explain how it felt, looking at the pathetic crap I created, and then seeing what she could do. There was no comparison. She was amazing.
I think she's the reason I never had the guts to take a creative writing class. I mean, if she was a writer, then I KNEW I wasn't. She would probably be horrified to read that, because she was never anything but encouraging to me. She went on to get her doctorate and now teaches writing at a university. I'm quite sure she's brilliant at it, because that's all she's ever been, at least through my eyes.
(Please don't think I'm feeling sorry for myself here, because ... you know what? I was meant to be a psychologist.)
This is a long way to say: no, I've never taken a single writing class. I've never considered getting an MFA (I quit school in 24th grade and will never go back). I also don't read craft books or participate in crit groups or go to writer's conferences. DON'T get me wrong--those things are really valuable, but I haven't yet been able to interest myself in the formal aspects of learning to write. I have no patience for it, and that might be because I've had a heckuva lot of formal schooling, and at this point in my life, I want to have fun. That's what writing is to me--pure fun, even when it's work. I write what I'm interested in reading, I pay close attention to feedback, and I try not to make the same mistake twice. That's it.
How about you? Are you formally trained? If so, how has it shaped you as a writer? If not, have you considered it? How else did you learn?
And on that note: Happy Holidays, everyone! I'll be taking a break so I can spend some time with my family, and I'll be back in the blogosphere next week!