Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writing Workshops

Eighteen months ago I started writing a novel. At the time, I didn’t think of myself as a writer and I had never seriously thought about writing anything for publication, certainly nothing as ambitious as a novel. But the idea for a story just came to me out of the blue one day and I felt a compulsion to get it down in words. So I started to write.
Early in the process I signed up for a class at the New York Writer’s Workshop. It was my first writing class since high school and I was a little intimidated. Several times over the next ten weeks we were required to submit 10 to 15 pages of a work in progress for critique by our fellow classmates. The first time I had to read my work out loud my voice was cracking from nervousness. I wasn’t just afraid of the criticisms I would get for my writing, but I was also revealing more of myself than most of my friends know. It was very personal.
My work was well received and I got a lot of compliments as well as constructive suggestions and observations. I was surprised by how much time and effort my classmates spent reviewing my submissions in advance and preparing notes for discussion in class. It was exhilarating and I attacked my novel with confidence that not only would I finish it, but it would get published.
As soon as time permitted, I signed up for a second workshop which was taught by a very successful novelist. The structure of this course was different. We submitted only three page samples and our classmates did not see them in advance. It was a large class and there was very little time for feedback. The instructor urged me to change the point of view and the voice that I was writing in. I had actually considered that before, but had decided that it wouldn’t work. But she was a published author and I was just a guy trying to write. So I switched gears. That meant discarding most of the sixty pages I had written so far and starting over. I wasn’t convinced that changing the voice of the story teller was the right thing to do. I wasn’t convinced that it was wrong either. I got lost. I got overwhelmed. I quite writing the novel.
That’s when I decided to start writing this blog. I was hooked on writing. I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I still wanted to write that novel but I just wasn’t ready to do it. So in order to keep writing, and to keep the consistency of writing regularly, I became a blogger.
Apart from my self-imposed deadline of a new article every Wednesday (and I haven’t missed once since I started last January), writing a blog is easy. My articles are short. I’m not sure if that’s because I have a short attention span, or because my reader’s do. I can write about whatever I want. There is no continuity between one article and the next. Some of them are little more than rambling rants but a few of them have turned out quite good, in my somewhat biased opinion.
Enough time has passed that I felt ready to take yet another workshop. So tomorrow I submit my first assignment for class review. We were given the opening and closing words and told to fill in a four page story between them. I decided to write from the point of view of a 40 year old heterosexual man lamenting his breakup with a sophisticated woman. I guess just writing from my own experience wasn’t a big enough challenge.
I don’t know how well this first assignment will be received, but it’s alright if it gets torn to shreds. It’s only a writing assignment, not a segment of an epic best-selling novel. We will be required to do a writing project every week for the next 8 weeks. I don’t know if I will have the energy, or creativity, to do this blog as well but I feel that it is important that I do. Time will tell.


  1. You ARE a writer. A natural one. Funny. Touching.
    Ignore what that writing instructor said and trust your own instincts. They're good ones.

  2. I know what this feels like. I am a young writer trying to break out to the world. But it is scary and I have three novels under my to-do list. But recently I am on a writers block and it is really sticking it to me. But you know, I still know when I see a good writer or a promising one. You are one. :) Keep writing. Only a true writer at heart will announce that he or she wants to be a writer. :)

    Regards and Best Wishes