Joyce Carol Oates

Lesson time 4:11 min

Joyce shares her parting words, advising how to select a place to write that makes you feel inspired and how to continue finding joy in the writing process.

Joyce Carol Oates
Teaches the Art of the Short Story
Literary legend Joyce Carol Oates teaches you how to write short stories by developing your voice and exploring classic works of fiction.
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[MUSIC PLAYING] - I have to have a study where I have a window. And I have to look out the window. And I spend a lot of time looking out the window. And if I have to face a wall, I'm not happy. And I'm not feeling that I want to sit there. In any room, I always go to the window. And I gravitate to the window. Now it sounds maybe a little naive or silly, but I feel that all those aids are part of the imagination. There's some reason why I need to look out the window at a beautiful scene. I don't want to look at an air shaft or a parking lot. So I'm sitting there with my laptop. And I'm writing. And I feel that the surpassing beauty of the physical world is helping me. If I were facing a wall, I would feel trapped and captive. I would feel like a rat in a cage. I wouldn't be happy. So in Princeton, I have a window looking out and a lot of green. And I put my garden in with color. Yellow is important. And red, and some blue, and purple. And I put those colors in deliberately so that I look at them. And I move geraniums around. So if I'm sitting there and some birds fly by or a neighbor cat walks through, sometimes there's a fox. And I'm afraid sometimes it's a groundhog coming in the garden. So then I actually run down and chase the groundhog away. But the idea of the natural world coming into the window down on the second floor, to me, that's part of this whole mystery process. Like I don't know what I'm going to see out the window. And that's part of the writing. I think one of the main things to remember when you're writing is that writing should be pleasurable. It should be fun. It should be exploratory. You should be writing about things that surprise you. So you wake up in the morning-- before you get up actually and open your eyes, think very excitedly about what you're going to be working on. And feel that something surprising, and novel, and maybe a little startling or even shocking will happen before noon. And it will happen in your writing. And nobody knows about it but you, because writing is like a spiritual manifestation of something deep within us. We don't really know is there. So it's like a painter painting work that is so beautiful but inchoate and putting it out on a canvas and other people can see it. So it's analogous to that. Then another thing you should remember is as you write that writing is not done in one day. You're not going to write a novel in one week. You won't write a brilliant short story in two weeks. And it should obviously be the case that you don't have to be prolific. If you write one really brilliant short story a year, that's great. If you write one novel at all, you know, that's really all that one expects. I have no expectations of anything in my own life, because I was the first person in my whole family even to graduate from high school. Nobody had any expectations from me. My parents didn't expect anything of me. I think that that's really a blessing. So I wo...

Find your voice in fiction

The author of some of the most enduring fiction of our time, Joyce Carol Oates has published 58 novels and thousands of short stories, essays, and articles. Now the award-winning author and Princeton University creative writing professor teaches you how to tap into your storytelling instincts. Find ideas from your own experiences and perceptions, experiment with structure, and improve your craft, one sentence at a time.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

It reminded me of the romance of being a writer writer not just a writer-for-money.

Joyce Carol Oates helped me with bringing out the work. More than anything the idea of writing for 6 minutes, 10 minutes and see what I can get. She is brilliant. Loved her. MORE, please.

Joyce reveals so much about her and her process that encourages.

She is so charming. I really felt that writing is something that is possible, even for me.


Kristine K.

Oh no it's over! I love her! She has taught me so much. I am going to start my memoir Face to Fur...this Masterclass has helped me get even more motivated!


I'm genuinely glad I took this class by Joyce Carol Oates. It has given me so much inspiration and the perfect tools to grow in my own writing. Time to rewiev once again.

Mary-Anne P.

Thank you so much to Joyce Carol Oates - this was my first experience of Masterclass. I expected some sort of lesson but that is not what creativity is about now I feel inspired and that is what writing is about. I am studying masters in creative writing with Open University and am about to start my final year. This first session has given me real food for thought and hit directly on my own writing experiences. One big thing I have taken from this is to share my writing more and not work like crazy to get each word right without getting feedback on the story. I feel excited now to begin in Oct - before these tutorials I was full of self-doubt.


Super class. Thank you for sharing such thoughtful ideas and terrific guidance!

A fellow student

Her explanation of her writing desk contradicts what she said earlier about interruptions being the bane of writers. Disappointing.

A fellow student

really 4 mins for this important section - I'm so glad there are other writing courses on this site otherwise I'd be demanding my money back.

John M.

This was so encouraging. I feel confident to keep moving forward, despite insecurities and rejections.

Victoria W.

Thank you so much Joyce! I have been writing a book since 2012, my first ever and it has been fun and challenging. Joyce really showed me the beauty and freedom of creative writing and short stories that has lite a new fire under me. I loved her way of teaching and all her new ideas of creative writing. My eyes have been permanently opened. I can not wait to rewrite my book in short story form and see what comes of it. Thank you!

Rebecca E.

Thank you so much for this inspiring Masterclass, Joyce Carol ! Loved every bit of it and will watch it over again. Very helpful insights. Thank you from my heart!

Rixanne (Rikki) H.

I didnt want it to end, yes have to watch again. thankyou for sharing with us.