Inspiration Abounds at a Writing Workshop: Getting out of our Zone and Into the Rooms with other Writers (Conclusion).

Attending my first writer’s workshop was a leap of bravery for me, intermixed with excitement. Since then, other events for me have followed. Here, in the final part of this blog series, I’ll give you 10 tried-and-true benefits for getting out of our zone of solitude and into the rooms with others who share in the same great passion.

The first workshop I had ever attended was in the spring of 2015, when in the early days of writing my memoir. Most recently, I was at a three-day writing workshop with Midwest Writers (July 22-24, 2019). And it was the furthest away from home that I’ve ever traveled for such an event. Yet, well worth it, in that it broadened my awareness, courage, and inspiration as a creative writer.

Time and again, the emphasis at these events have been to expand our individual skill-set in creativity. Whereas, what to write is up to each individual. A question that came into my blog during the posting of this series centered on questioning the trust in and working relationship to others also at the event (I’m paraphrasing the exact comment/question). However, this concern seems nonexistent to me. If anything, the support shared among writers increases the power in my words.

For example, learning under the guidance of author and journalist, Michael McColly, I came to understand that as I develop the book I am currently working on—a biography of my maternal great-grandmother, a changemaker during the mid-20th century—I need to not only describe what she did, but also describe in detail what society was like during this era. McColly can’t write these words for me. It’s up to me. In my smaller publications, I often write about homelessness and how we can help others. McColly can’t describe what it is like to be homeless any more than I can describe the AIDS epidemic in America and in Africa in which he journals about from his personal experience. However, coming out of his classroom, I can understand how to write to reach readers when describing my own experiences and interests.

If you missed the prior posts to this blog series, you can link to them here:
Part 1 It is well worth it for us to get out of the usual solitary routine by joining forces with others. Here I share about my attendance at the Midwest Writers Workshop (or MWW, for short.)
Part 2 Break-out sessions with industry leaders and authors, Michael McColly, Matthew Clemons, and others.
Part 3 All day intensive session with Jane Friedman, author.
Part 4 Logistics of getting to a writer’s workshop and what to do when there.

10 tried-and-true benefits for getting out of our zone of solitude and into the rooms with others who share in the same great passion:

1. You will meet other writers.

(I know, duh, right?) Yet, this is the place to meet lots of people who are at varying stages in their writing careers. Wherever you are on the road to success, you will meet others who have been there before and who are ready to help you. I find that writers as a group are very supportive. If you make an effort to say hello and to sit next to people you don’t know, it is easy to meet others who can help you take the next step in your writing. It is also an opportunity to share your own experience, strength, and hope with others.

2. You will get energized.

It’s revitalizing to be with other people, all excited about the same thing. Like a pep rally from high school, when with others with the same goal, you can’t help but get the desire to write more or better than you ever have before.

3. You will feel good.

It is a motivational booster to be with others in unity. My entire experience in attending MWW, from traveling from home (and learning to drive a late model rental car) to meeting new people to seeing new sights was eye-opening for me. Any new experience which brings positive awareness amps our endorphins—it is a feel-good thing.

4. You will learn something.

Part of the reason I write is that I enjoy reading and gaining knowledge. We are hardwired to get excited about learning new things and writer events are full of ideas and insights about the craft. Sessions can be just as interesting as college classes—the only difference is that there are no tests.

5. You will find practical information for immediate use.

No matter where you are in your writing path, you will gain some nuts-and-bolts knowledge that you can use to make your writing better. Workshops can vary in their goal. My attendance at the yearly workshops with the School for Creative and Performing Arts came with a focus to bring community members closer together through the writing craft. Whereas, the focus at the MWW event was to expand our skillset for writing.

As varied as our writing is from writer to writer, so are the focus at these events. You could learn how to write for magazines and journals, how to use dialogue or create a story arc, how to develop a social media presence, how to zero in on your specific genre of writing, how to learn a new genre of writing, and the list goes on. You could gain feedback on your current manuscript. You could learn about the publication process or how to put together a query package when seeking publication. (Preparing my memoir for publication consideration involved writing a synopsis, a marketing plan, and defining my readership, and more.)  

6. You may gain new readers.

And you may discover writers to follow. On day one at the MWW conference, I browsed the swag table, complete with books for sale from other authors also attending the event. While I appreciated having a spot to display and sell my book, all the more fun, was to find the author behind a book I bought. I kept asking around if anyone knew who Carol Michel was (the author of the book I bought.) On the final morning, I sat down at a table and introduced myself to the gal next to me. Guess who she was? Yep, none other than Carol, the author behind my new great find.   

7. You may find a new market for your writing.

Conferences attract writers from many walks of life. Some of them will write for markets that you haven’t considered yet. They might know of a journal or other publication seeking the kinds of things you write. They may know of a publisher who is looking for a book like yours. And you may be able to pass on what you are aware of, to help others. (It’s a community thing.)

8. You will improve your professional effectiveness.

Like other professionals, from doctors, salespersons, schoolteachers, and others who attend continuing education conferences, so too, is this our way to learn more. Joining other writers at these events are an excellent way to for us to continue our education and improve our knowledge about our craft. If you are serious about your writing, then your attendance at such an event will prove that you are committed to your chosen profession.

9. You will make new connections.

Connections could be in the way of editors or agents who show up looking to meet up-and-coming authors. Connections could be newfound writer-friends that you will see time and again at future events. Exchanging business cards and email addresses is great way to not have to say “goodbye” but instead, to keep in touch. And be sure to do just that, by visiting their Facebook page or dropping them a note through email or even mailing them a card if you have their mailing address.

10. You will get inspired.

If you go with an ear to listen, there will be speakers who seem to be talking directly to you. Some have overcome great obstacles in order to succeed. They may be able to give you hope or encouragement or that little push that you need. Either way, you will find the courage to keep on writing.

Every time I join forces with other writers, I come out of it renewed and refreshed with benefits far outweighing what I can accomplish all by my lonesome. It takes action to get out of my zone of solitude and into the room with others. This action, time and again, is my reminder that I am a very real part of a community who values writing and who also consider the art of writing to be as essential as living and breathing.

What about you? Have you attended any events with others who have a shared interest? If so, what can you confer from these benefits? In the wrap-up to this blog series, I hope you too have gained a greater love for your potential as well as the inspiration to be found and created with others.

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-Elle-

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