I frequently teach writing classes and love doing that. It’s nothing short of thrilling for me to share tips and techniques I’ve gathered over a period of time and to have a dialogue with the students. By preparing for a workshop, I also seem to clarify my own thoughts about a topic, and that is a bonus.
Can writing be taught? This question comes up again and again, whenever writers congregate. There are two schools of thought. One says writers are born, not made, and that classroom teachings are a waste of time. Others insist one can learn the craft, the same way one learns how to make a chair. This group is quick to name authors who have graduated from writing programs and gone on to win acclaims.
Within the limited space of this blog, I can’t attempt to do a full discussion on this age-old controversy. Instead I’ve opted to give you some personal observations and that of a few students.
Earlier in my career, I had concentrated on mastering the craft from workshops and how-to books. That certainly paid off when I began writing a novel. At some point I realized that craft wasn’t enough. You have to go beyond the rules. You have to lift your story to another plane, the art part of writing, if I may call it that, and I had to do it myself. I’d leave this subject for now.
A few weeks ago when I taught craft classes at an intense writing retreat, I had a chance to interact with the attendees outside the classroom. They pointed out what had benefited them. Some dwelled on what they’d gotten from the workshops and personal consultations. Others talked about getting away from their usual environment and immersing themselves in their projects. Still others pointed out a few peripheral benefits: contacts being made, networks expanded, inspiration gained.
The conclusion I derived is this: whether for craft or contact these workshops have their place. Ideas collide, new shapes and structures form in your mind, you see beyond your horizon. You win new friends, extend your network, and take part in meaningful exchanges. You come away feeling more motivated to write. And those just might be reason enough to attend a writers’ workshop.
I’d love to hear from you. Perhaps I’ll return with another blog in future on the same topic.