Monday, May 08, 2006

My first day at the Creative Writing Workshop

My first day at the Creative Writing Workshop

Susan (Malaysia), hope you don't regret asking! Sorry that it's so long-winded! :)



I am still unsure what prompted me to join a creative writing workshop. I have NEVER written a story (not even a simple one for my kids) and nor have I ever harbored a desire to do so. I am more likely to write about someone else's story; not like a critic would, but more like a fan of literature, rhapsodizing about the writer's magnificient style, her/his storyline and so on. So it was a big surprise, even to myself, when I made the call to the college sponsoring the workshop. The person who took my call didn't ask me for my credentials on the phone - just signed me up, so really, I didn't know what to expect when I got there.

The first thing that struck me when I arrived at the venue is that I was probably the youngest person in the group (well, I had the least grey hairs anyway, or maybe I just had the better coloring job!). But perhaps that's not so surprising when you consider the course takes place in the middle of the day thereby attracting more retired people, but as we went round the table introducing ourselves, I realized these were no ordinary retired people - about half were published authors already and the other half were journalists wanting to make the leap from journalism to fiction. I felt sooooooooo out of my league in that esteemed company, that I half wanted to run home with my tail between my legs!

Our workshop leader, a published author himself, is an easy going, non-threatening kind of guy. He both looks and sounds very creative, (please don't ask me to elaborate on what I mean by "creative-looking", he might be reading this!). After introducing himself he outlined the course for us and I was delighted to see we were going to cover travel writing (my favorite) along with short stories, novel writing, the memoir, writing for children, humorous writing, character development and romance (my least favorite - perhaps I'll sit that one out)


Without much of a to-do he gave us our first assignment: to write about a chance meeting between two people. Our instructions were to write for the first 10 mins without lifting our pens from the paper. He told us to turn off the internal editor as we wrote and not to worry about grammar, spellings etc. After 20 mins we were divided into groups of three where we read our stories to each other. I was both shocked and pleased when the ladies in my group declared my story to be the best! Beginner's luck? ;)


After we returned to our tables a volunteer was called upon to read her story and we were all invited to give her feedback. I don't know when I will find the courage to read my story to the whole class or even to post it here. Maybe if you buy me a couple of Margaritas? ;)


So, what did I learn that first day? That really, anyone can write a story if prepared to allow the imagination to soar. I know that sounds easy, but it isn't because our pesky internal editor can be quite interfering. I also learned that if you want to be a better writer you have to write more and offer your work up for feedback (now that part still makes me quake). What if people find my work boring and actually tell me so? Will I ever be able to enter that class on bouncy steps with a jaunty, confident smile as I do now? We shall have to see.

18 comments:

Dorothy W. said...

Wow, I'm impressed with your courage. You're doing more than I would be able to! Sounds like a great experience.

Caitlin said...

I don't think being a journalist helps really. It sounds impressive and it seems like it should help because it involves writing but really, it's an immensely different skill. I used to write fiction in my teens but once I became a journalist (aged 20) I found it really hard. I think because the writing in journalism (at least in news which is where people tend to start out) is very structured and we're trained to take out all unnecessary words. Since I've started writing features, which require a bit more description and evocation, I think my writing overall has improved and hopefully I can make the leap back into fiction sometime. It's just as daunting for me as anyone else though.

Susan Abraham said...

Hi Lotus, How wonderful that you wrote up this post. And what an interesting account! You're obviously going to make heaps of friends. And one day soon, someone will be admiring your style in the same way that you've often admired another's.
I agree with Caitlin though that as a former journalist, to agree that journalism is a totally different ball game!
Caitlin, I was in the same boat as you. Started off writing fiction, then in my years as a journalist did not do any of that. But now, I've found it possible to go back to fiction-writing. Here's wishing you all the best Lotus, Dorothy & Caitlin for all your writing ambitions.
*love*

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Dorothy

Not sure if I'm courageous or very foolish! :)) Time will tell. Thanks for dropping by.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Caitlin

Thanks for visiting and for giving me a journalist's perspective. After having to contain your writing within a specified framework, I can understand how the spontaneity and liberties that creative writing allows with imagination and language, might seem quite daunting at first. I wish you good luck as you return to writing fiction - I am sure you'll do a great job. Thanks also for the very informative posts on your blog. I enjoy my visits there.



'Allo Susan!

Thanks for prompting me to share about the workshop and for all the encouragement you give me. I love the idea of narrative journalism actually. I think it's a great blend of fact reporting but with a little more room to be creative. I also love the idea of being a foreign reporter, except, like Tintin, I would probably get so caught up with having adventures in these foreign countries that I might forget to do the job! What field of journalism were you in? Good luck with the book, I am so excited for you!

sruthi said...

omg lotus this sounds so fun!!! i really wish i could do that. But i think if i took a class where i'd have to keep a strict regimen and adhere to deadlines and do assignments, i might lose the creative aspect of creative writing. But props to you for being able to do this... now all this talk about writing is making me want to write a substantial blog entry about something, anything, seeing as how i haven't done so in a really long time. Have fun in the class and do post some of the things you write:)

Guinness_Girl said...

Congratulations, Lotus! YOur class sounds very cool - and I'm so proud of you for doing it! Pretty please can we see the story? I'll send margaritas...

Susan Abraham said...

You could do pretty well with narrative journalism, Lotus. That's a good first climb up the ladder. love

Susan Abraham said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lotus Reads said...

Sruthi, I hear you about losing spontaneity when a course is that well-structured, but it also teaches one discipline - and as with any craft, it is always practice and the incorporation of new techniques that makes one perfect. I can't wait to see you posting more on your blog - you really do have a wonderful way with words.

Thanks, guinessgirl! You will come up and share those margaritas with me, won't you?

Thanks, Susan...If I ever do a course in media writing, I will have lots of questions for you!

Susan Abraham said...

Oh God! Why did I open my big mouth, huh?

Susan Abraham said...
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Novel Writer said...

Hi, I'm new to the blogging world and happened to find your post by chance. Your writing course sounds like a good deal. Congrats on getting voted 'best story' by your classmates. A book that you might enjoy reading (if you haven't already) is Stephen King's "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft". King gets down to the nitty-gritty about the business of writing. Plus, he mixes in stories about his personal life.

Lotus Reads said...

heh,heh, Susan! :)



Hi, Novel writer!

Welcome to the blogosphere, nice to have you here! I have seen the Stephen King book and will be sure to pick it up and browse through it the next time I am at a bookstore (thanks for the recommendation). At the moment, I have on my desk, Julia Cameron's "The Right to Write"; in the blurb it promises to 'liberate and cultivate'the writer residing in everyone', let's hope it does as it promises! :)

I had a quick look at your blog and the contents of your first post made for interesting reading. I will visit again.

Catherine said...

hi lotus :) how wonderful to make the time to write! this post reminded me how much i loved the creative non-fiction course i took in college. sometimes i doubt fiction ever exists, if you know what i mean. ;) anyway, maybe one day you will write a children's story...what a great challenge that would be for anyone! keep us posted on your progress...

happy writing!!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Cat and thanks so much for visiting! I know what you mean when you ponder the existence of fiction and then, when truth is usually stranger than fiction do we even need it? (fiction, I mean!) :)

Your creative non-fiction course must have been a blast. I think I might do better with a course like that - left-brained as I am, I sometimes find creative fiction a bit of a chore!

Anonymous said...

Lotus
I think everyone in your class is going to be out of your league someday if not already.
Dave

Lotus Reads said...

Awwww, thanks Dave!