I completed my first writing workshop yesterday. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive, even downright sceptical. Thankfully, the people who took part in the one-day event were all awesome folks, and the two “teachers”—Jon Bauer and Rebecca Starford—were splendid. Jon in particular was very enthusiastic and told it bluntly—writing is what you make it (though he did have his own strong opinions).
There were writing exercises. There were heated discussions. There were laughs had by all. The main issue was looking at what makes us freeze-up when it comes to the actual task of writing. A little bit of an oxymoron—a writing class for writers that don’t write—but procrastination is a big thing. It’s not that writers don’t want to put words down, but that the possibility of failure fills us with fear, which means that Facebook becomes our best friend (or foe). I won’t post the exercises we wrote, seeing as they mostly focused on looking at ourselves, but they very extremely helpful and enlightening. The first was writing about a writer that was a version of ourselves, a hyper-realised exaggeration of the ego—then, later, another exercise from the POV of an observant character, watching this tortured portrayal. Probably the best exercise was writing from the voice of Parent, Adult, and Child, describing ourselves from these perspectives. I wrote so harshly about myself as the Parent that I actually felt a pang of emotion. Then I used the Child to cheer myself up (“I really want to play in your worlds!”). If you’re a struggling writer, try to become a narrator and describe your situation. It may illuminate important issues.
The main lesson I took away was patience. Writing takes times. It takes revision and editing. It requires thinking periods. Don’t rush it, don’t blurt out a first draft, make a few changes, and send it off. Let it gestate and bud. The second thing that struck me was almost the opposite: “Fuck it.” It’s fair to say that with the first draft you have to let it go, roll with the words, and see where the story takes you. Get yourself in the right frame of my (don’t write with a frown) and let it happen. The issue of willpower came up, and it really applies to me. Full-time hospitality used to take it out of me, and since going casual I have written far more. However, it does take a lot of inner strength to deal with day to day problems and still find the power to write. On top of that, my main issue is choice, which again saps ones limited supply of willpower. I have so much I want to do, and now I realise that I need to cut all of it out except for a single project at a time. Finish one thing, move on. Other little tips include reading it out aloud, and find a writing group—hopefully the people I met are as interested in forming a critique crew as I.
I walked away filled with hope, a free book, possible new writing colleagues, a bunch of notes, and most importantly, great advice. Hats off to Kill Your Darlings, and Bec and Jon, I’ll definitely keep an eye out for future workshops or mentoring opportunities.
Have you participated in writing workshops? Were they beneficial, and if so/not, why?
Update: A very relevant article: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/the-art-of-being-still/