I wonder why many writers don’t attend workshops. The cost? Self-doubt? Lack of commitment? No babysitter?
Hard to say. Maybe it’s some combination of all the reasons mentioned above. More likely, each individual has his or her own reasons. I’m not prepared to spend the countless hours required to consider every potential possibility in trying to find the answer. I am prepared to say that attending a writers’ workshop is something that everyone who writes (or wants to write) should consider.
Attending a writing workshop or retreat is good for you (I realize that phrase may cause some of you to flash back to your mother holding your dessert hostage by forcing you to eat your veggies. If that happens, sorry that you are still traumatized by it). Seriously, though, there is much benefit to be attained. Here are just a few, gleaned from my writing journey and workshop experiences.
The Benefits of Community: Everyone who writes (and even those who don’t) know that the craft of writing is a solitary practice. You can write with a partner, or as a team, but even then, someone is likely to be sitting alone with pen/paper/computer and putting the words down.
At a workshop, you are spending time with like-minded people who understand better than anyone else what it takes to write. Some have been there and done that, some are just starting, but everyone shares the common title of ‘writer.’ Your writer peers also share their thoughts, fears, and triumphs. The personal validation one feels from being with other writers is an encouragement we all can use. The relationships you begin or continue to build at writers’ workshops make your life richer and your writing better. You never know when a friend you met at a workshop will be the one to connect you with an agent, a publisher, or a potential collaborator.
The Benefits of Education: At a writers’ workshop, you listen to instruction from those with experience. You learn from fellow participants. You study the craft you love. And you write. All of that helps make you a better writer.
I saw an interview with Elmore Leonard, Michael Connelly, and George Pelecanos…giants in the writing industry. They’ve been writing and publishing for years. They also write like everyone else who writes: word by word, and page by page. Each was asked about where they see themselves and their careers in ten years. They all answered that by that time, they want to be better writers. That’s telling…and I believe that’s one thing that all writers want. Workshops help make that happen.
The Benefit of Getting Away: Life is busy. There are always demands on our time that we cannot escape. Attending a writers’ workshop provides that escape. That distance from the everyday can be just what you and your writing need.
Many workshops are held in places where you could consider your time there as a vacation. Often, there are natural wonders or quaintly cool towns where you can relax and refresh yourself during the event. Even a day-long workshop in an urban conference center provides a measure of relief from all the daily demands of life that can hinder your writing.
Getting away, whether it’s a few days or one day, gives you the opportunity to focus on your self, your writing, and your goals as a writer. It allows you to bask in the release of thinking about and doing the mundane tasks that must be done when you’re at home. That focused time, and the release of thinking about the grocery list, the dogs needing flea baths, and the meeting you have to prepare for helps you build reserves in the internal well from which your writing flows.
The Benefits of Investment: Any or all of the above benefits can be seen as an investment in your writing, and your writing career. It’s the opposite of the phrase garbage in, garbage out…Investment in, rewards out. My writing, my writing journey, and my writing relationships would all be lesser if I had never invested the time or cost of workshops.
My advice to writers (and those who want to write) is simply this: Consider attending a writers retreat or workshop, whether it’s in your city or somewhere miles away. You, and your writing, are well worth whatever it takes to do so…and so are the benefits that will come from the effort.