My writing mentors encourage me to attend every writing class and workshop possible, to surround myself with writers who also wish to improve their craft. I take this advice to heart and put it into practice every chance I get, and I have never been disappointed. I walk out of all writing events with something I can use to make me a better writer.
- Learn new things – Writing is a talent and a skill that is never mastered. There is always something new to learn—a different way to turn a phrase, a new approach to writing description, an improved method of depicting the people in our stories. When we attend classes and workshops, we expose ourselves to fresh ideas. Generally, these exciting new methods don’t come looking for us as we sit on our couches watching TV.
- Reinforce what you already know – I love hearing something I learned ten minutes or ten years ago. It reinforces the information and solidifies it in my mind. The more often I’m presented an idea, the more likely I am to have it readily accessible when I need it. Plus, if I already know about the advice an instructor gives, I feel really smart.
- Meet like-minded people – If I want to be a writer, I’m not going to surround myself with rocket scientists and mathematicians. Although, they are surely great people with interesting stories, we speak different languages. The old adage applies here, birds of a feather flock together. To be a great writer, put yourself in the middle of great writers.
- Receive the encouragement you need – Writing is not easy. If it were, everyone would do it. When I write, I’m often frustrated, exhilarated, confused, stuck, excited, grateful and experiencing at least ten or more other emotions, and that’s all within the first five minutes of hovering over a blank sheet of paper with pen in hand. Then someone says, “Have you thought to try this?” or “I remember struggling with that. This is what I did,” or simply, “You’re a good writer. I believe in you.” Wow! That alone is worth the time and money. The encouragement and support of other writers keeps me writing.
- Be accountable – It’s no secret that I’m competitive, so I try to use that asset/defect (sometimes I don’t know which it is) to my advantage. When I put myself in a writing workshop or class, I refuse to be the only person in the group not writing. I may complete the assignment minutes before it’s due, but I finish it. If I didn’t have that external deadline or the faces of my classmates firmly fixed in my mind, there would always be tomorrow, and too many times, that tomorrow never comes.
I asked members of my Spring 2012 Writing Your Life Class what they got out of the nine-week course. Here are some of their responses:
Besides the obvious, of learning how to write better, I receive encouragement from the other class members and confidence from Patricia…I am so much more productive while I am taking a class than when I am out of class.
By enrolling and participating in the Writing Your Life class, a number of personal benefits were derived: a) helped me to establish deadlines in getting desired stories completed because of the structured learning environment, b) instilled a competitive spirit in me, making me want to do as well as my fellow students, c) improved my public speaking skills, d) allowed me to copy some of the strong work ethics exercised by fellow students, e) instilled stronger qualities of commitment and personal discipline.
Del (Danny) Placides
The process of writing, critiquing and rewriting is helping to change my old methods. I’m learning to clarify, tighten and reduce the “wases”. I love watching the butterfly emerge. It’s a thrilling journey, which is certainly not finished.
The latest session of Writing Your Life was important to me because I enjoyed being given a topic for a story to write about. Stories about a memorable fragrance, a run-in with the law, a tense situation, etc., were ideas that could be greatly expanded upon at the right time for other stories. Providing writing subject matter was an excellent challenge for this writer.
Reflecting back, this is what I got out of the class this semester: honest feedback from my peers and help with one story I’ve been working on. I feel like we all have a story to tell and having different levels in the class encourages me to continue to write. In other words, some are really talented and others really have to work at it. Writing doesn’t come naturally to me, but taking the class reinforces my desire to just keep plugging away, and after a while, I can make my story look a whole lot better. Chris Lipscomb
Penney Fox joined our class again this session for the inspiration she receives from the group. She finds the writing exercises particularly helpful as they supply her with ideas for her blog in addition to the stories she wants to write for her son. Check out two of Penney’s blog posts, Bless Her Heart and An Encounter with Nature, which grew out of assignments given in the Spring 2012 Writing Your Life class.
Are you convinced? Give yourself a great gift, find a class or workshop and join forces with fellow writers. You’ll amaze yourself with what you’re able to accomplish.
So, tell me something specific you learned in a writing class. How did a lesson, tip or feedback from fellow writers positively impact your writing?