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Writing workshops - Why It Is An Absolute Must and Things I Learned
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Last year in November, I attended my first ever Creative writing workshop with Victoria Gosling and Jane Flett from the Reader Berlin. Amidst my never ending German lessons and all that comes along while setting up life in a foreign country, I finally decided to take the plunge and registered for this workshop. For me writing was always an elusive dream, and I wouldn’t lie it was also about the fame , a sense of validation, an intellectual high. It is only now I realize that writing is actually much more about what is going inside me than what it may do to others as my potential readers. It is indeed absolutely cathartic.
So what made all the difference? A couple of things actually. I realized and also read someone saying that there is no bad book, a book either finds its reader or it doesn’t. I am sure everyone trying to write or is writing wants to write something that is read. The second thing is, there is nothing like a bad language there is only a bad story. Popularity of a lot of commercial fiction writers re-confirm this for me actually. And also when I realized that English language is so popular and widely accepted is also because it is so forgiving in nature.
In this workshop, I met a Polish girl who loves to read Marquez and writes amazingly well, but has an accent that somehow makes my Indian English feel acceptable. An Australian who writes flawlessly and has an accent that is almost intimidating to mine, but at the same time we could have a fairly long conversation while waiting in the queue to grab our lunch during the break! These little interactions reinstated my faith that just like Music, Writing too has no barriers, once the emotions are in place it can also be pretty much universal.
I think by now it is pretty clear that I have been a very insecure writer. For that matter insecurity seeps into almost every aspect of my life. Be it my cooking skills, my parenting skills, my professional skills as a data analyst or someone trying to create an online business around books and writing. So, I hardly publish things I scribble and my medium blog actually has more drafts than published articles. All this in spite of running a fairly well reached out writing community. I often fail to bring out the writer in me. Because I know it is somewhere in there, hidden inside all the business , marketing , data, news, numbers, grocery lists, social media and social life cacophony occupying my headspace almost all the time.
So, I hope you also find that person in you and unleash the power of writing in your life. Attending a good writing workshop, can well be the first step in that direction.
I always felt I havn’t read enough to dare to write, especially fiction. I think this is a good insecurity to have. But otherwise, be less insecure about your skills as a writer. Write in the language that comes naturally to you. Unfortunately for a lot of us who grow up in India, we struggle with this very identity crisis where our command over our mother tongue is not that good to accomplish anything literary and our knowledge of English kind of falls flat in front of our own inner demons and possibly gets rejected at many editorial desks. The simplest (and perhaps the only) way to overcome this is to just read more in the language and style you plan to write.
I could have written or shot a video of all that I learned in this workshop. But that I feel would be injustice to the amazing two days’ workshop that Victoria and Jane has put together. This was obviously pre Covid times where we had proper sit down with close to 15 participants. Now I think most of their workshops are Online, except this Writing Retreat that they plan to conduct in Greece.
So, my suggestion, if at all you care. Go for writing workshops. Invest in the craft. Stay away from workshops that are all about the Author and their new release book. Trust me you can make out the difference easily.
Lastly, if I were to summarize what I learned in the workshop – “Kickstart your writing this weekend”, these would be my very brief takeaways.
1. Morning Pages : An absolute must for every writer. Scribble anything that comes to your mind, every single day. Don’t think, don’t read what you have written, and definitely don’t edit. Just write. It is like the warm up you do before workouts, flex your writing muscles.
2. Character research: Think about every small and big detail about the characters. If necessary prepare a character questionnaire and write separate note for characters. For fiction writing it is the inner motivation and desires of your characters that will actually take the story forward.
3. Constructing a plot : This is often a chicken and egg situation, so unless you write you may not very clearly know the plot you want to build. But Jane suggested a very nice way to build this , by trying to tell your story in a line, perhaps with a question and a possible answer. If this is clear in your head the skeleton of the story is set. I have written over 10,000 words of my story and I still don’t have a plot. So I guess this happens with first time writers all the time.
4. Dialogues : This was the highlight for me in this workshop. And boy, I did not know I could write such good dialogues ! So Victoria introduced different voices that can be used to write dialogues and we did a couple of role plays and I realized, how important this aspect is in fiction writing. If you do a proper character research, dialogues will just flow as if your characters are talking through you. I felt this a couple of time in my writing so far and this is an amazing feeling.
5. Usual googling and more important, the self-research : Every profession these days requires you to be a good Googler(if at all that word exists). Writing is no different. But the importance of self-research cannot be emphasized more in today’s day and age of information over load ! So knowing your tastes and preferences, what kind of books you like to read and would like to write eventually are an absolute must.
6. Revise your work, get professional help, beta readers, editors, understanding the market, how publishing industry works in that market, role of literary agents etc. But all said and done, do finish your First shitty draft. Even if it is just you who ends up reading it.
Image courtesy : Freepik
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