I have done it twice now – and no more! What I did was to attend a writer’s workshop the wrong way. You know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. We say, “But this time it will be different.” No, it won’t.
I have attended two writer’s workshops – once in Florida in January, and a second this past week in Iowa. In both cases, my mistake was not fully investing in the process and not taking advantage in all the workshop had to offer.
At the Florida workshop, I stayed with family, and tried to get to see family members while at the same time going to the writing sessions. I missed some good stuff that the workshop had to offer in addition to the workshopping sessions.
At the Iowa workshop this week, I decided since I was so close I would stay at home. Bad idea. I got entangled in stuff going on at home. I had to rush around to attend workshop sessions and then rush back home. I had to take a day off to do errands. Too much.
What I WILL do different next time: I will make sure I am fully present – both physically and mentally – for the workshop. I will stay at the workshop location and participate in as many activities as I can. After all, I paid for the whole package, so I should get my money’s worth.
Now, a little more about the workshops.
The Florida workshop was Writers in Paradise, the 10th annual version of an excellent writer’s workshop at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. I took a novel writing workshop with Ann Hood, who was fantastic. She gave us lots of general advice and, more important, she was able to home in on the key issue with each of our writing samples. And she nailed it every single time. I saw exactly what I needed to come home and give a fresh start to my novel. I took a giant leap ahead in my fiction writing skills, but I didn’t attend any of the readings or extra sessions. I left a lot of possibilities on the table.
The Iowa workshop was the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, which runs over several weeks, with different week-long or weekend-long workshops each session. I took a workshop on historical narrative with Margaret Patton Chapman. She included some “field trips” to see how to access research materials and incorporate them into a historical work, and she discussed “narrative distance” and voice in the historical novel.
Kristen Lamb says all writers should attend writer’s workshops, and I agree. She says:
A conference is our way of accepting the challenge and rising to the call. It means we are willing to invest in our dreams. We transition from a hobbyist to a professional. Professionals seek information, guidance and are unafraid to put their money where their mouth is.
In the end, after reviewing what I learned, I did come away from each workshop with new motivation, new insights, and new skills. But I could have formed more bonds with fellow writers, rubbed shoulders with agents (in the case of the Florida conference), and gained valuable insights.
Oh, well, better next time.
More on Attending a Writer’s Workshop
Here’s a list of writers conferences and workshops from NewPages