I spent the last three Saturday afternoons in a writing workshop, and that’s an example of one of the exercises we did, taking specific prompts like that and doing timed writings.
The idea is that free-writing about bananas might lead your subconscious to a deeper topic about which you really wanted to write...like a Christmas memory with Aunt Nell, perhaps. (who maybe was bananas!)
There were seven of us in the class, led by a high-energy instructor who had mountains of information to share and gazillions of techniques to get us writing and keep us writing. None of us students earned a living with our writing, but we were all writers, all there for basically the same reason: we knew the thrill of putting a word down on paper or screen, and then putting another word after it, and continuing on that path to see where it would lead us.
My bookshelves contain dozens of books on the writing craft: how to free your creativity, how to overcome writer’s block, when to use “laying” instead of “lying.” I’ve spent more time reading about writing than I’ve spent...writing.
And while learning about writing is an integral element for writers of all levels, the bottom line is that if you want to be a writer, you’ve gotta write!
For the record, I knew this simple rule going in...but it was reinforced during our hours together, and often it needs to be slammed home a few times before the light bulb goes on and you tell yourself, “Ohhh yeah. I better sit down and write.”
Sure, I’ve got this blog, and I write a weekly column, and I’ve been known to write mini-novellas in e-mails to friends.
But I don’t practice my writing as much as I should. Just like a pro hooper still shoots layups before each game, a writer needs practice, too. I need to put in my time writing about bananas, doing my layups.
I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up for this workshop, and when it said enrollment was limited, I wasn’t sure if that meant 30 students or 10. We had seven, and spent our sessions around a table in a “group discussion” setting, not exactly my strong suit.
Never the most vocal member of any group, I’m more comfortable in a classroom setting where I can sit in the back row near the heat register and blend in. If I want to express myself, I grab a pen or a keyboard, rather than raising my voice to speak. (gee, I must be a writer, or something.)
But a slight transformation took place among that group. I found myself opening up a little more than I’m used to. I cared a great deal about the material, and once in a while I knew what I wanted to say, and I said it. Out loud. I kinda fit in, I guess.
There were eight very different personalities around that table, but it was an easy, loose environment in which to share ideas and questions, and to read each other’s work.
By the end of our last class, I learned that, to some degree, I know what I’m doing. I also learned that I’ve got a long, long way to go. I learned that there are so many people out there with so many fascinating ideas, it’s fun to see how those ideas translate to the page.
And I learned that I have to write.
I...am a writer. Are you? Grab a pen and find out!
And give me ten minutes on...aardvarks.
Or, Idaho potatoes, perhaps.
“So it is very deep to be a writer.
It is the deepest thing I know.
And I think, if not this, nothing—it will be
my way in the world for the rest of my life.
I have to remember this again and again.”