The dreaded workshop. Creativity on demand, under the scrutiny of other far more competent creatives. Yes, I attended a couple the other week. It took a lot of courage and many self pep talks to even get myself into the room! I spent the few days leading up to it gathering the neurotic thoughts I could find – you’re not as good as everyone else, they’ll all laugh at your ideas, you’re not clever enough, you can’t write, give up – which inevitably led to the usual anxiety attack just before leaving for the first workshop. The difference between the me now and the me I was this time last year being I ACTUALLY WENT! I didn’t cop out. I really MADE myself go. The few experiences of doing this previously had gone well, and so finally my brain has seemed to reach an equilibrium between the neurotic thoughts and the experiential evidence to show that it’s never as bad as I can very competently make out it’s going to be. I held onto that thought like a toddler with an ice-cream. Also, it’s about self-confidence *looks at self-confidence bucket, status: empty*. It’s about realising what could REALISTICALLY go wrong, and knowing that you do have the ability to get through it if it does. Unfortunately us humans must go through a few harrowing experiences to realise this fact fully, but hey, life’s a bitch on steroids sometimes.
Anyway, back to the workshops. So, I was nervous about attending this workshop full of literary geniuses. When I arrived there were 20 other people all sat round a table like the class of 1992, silent, ridged, and concentrating very hard on their pencils. After what seemed like a lifetime plus one, the teacher arrived. Sorry, ‘workshop leader’. As a plan was drawn of the names of the people in attendance and ‘just a little bit about what style of writing you do’ I could see that every single person was bricking it as much as me. Everyone feels the same in these situations. If they don’t look like it then they have years of practice behind them meaning they’re bloody good at covering it up!
Most writers I’ve come across are like this: full of self-doubt, unsure whether their audacity to fill pages of dead trees with their words is justifiable. Of course, some new writers are very confident, some rightly so, and for some it can be their downfall. A bit of humility can go a long way, and it is essential for learning and creating. As writers in the world of open communication we are expected to be brands in ourselves. We need to be personalities which our audience can buy into, like a character in a book. The thought of selling yourself as a package of writing brilliance is incomprehensible to writers, most of whom will openly admit they don’t know everything there is to know about themselves, never mind present it to the world neatly tag-lined and photo-perfect.
Writers are natural introverts, observers rather than participators. Writers are used to hiding behind their writing. Writers want their writing to be their brand that represents them. But to the hungry wolf that is social media being a writer is not enough. We need to form relationships with our readers before they’ve even read anything we’ve written, and we need to do it in such a way that it represents our writing style so as to fulfil our readers’ expectations when they do finally skim through the opening lines of our stories. Brand Writer must deliver what it promises.
Again, we come back to that illusive rogue, time. Having time. If I was a social media guru I wouldn’t spend as much time writing. Simple. I’m currently working on how to do both. My brain is complaining about this distraction, but I will come to a mutually beneficial compromise at some point.
The workshops? Loved every second! I didn’t appear to cause offence to anyone, and I didn’t turn into a blubbering jellylike blob, and my head didn’t explode all over my fellow participants. Once I’d forgotten to worry about those things and became absorbed in the whole thing the time passed way too quickly and before I knew it I was leaving that once terrifying room feeling self-sanctimonious, telling myself that I told myself it would be all right, didn’t I, hmm?
It was great to hear what others were writing, and it was great to come up with ideas amongst such creative people, even if certain ideas wouldn’t pop forth on demand. It didn’t matter. It wasn’t a test. It was for us workshopees to learn something. The stuff I did come up with inspired a whole new story with a great character I can hardly believe I created, and I was able to grasp a sense of where my particular comfy cushion of ‘Me’ sits within the writer population. I know more than I think I do is really what these workshops taught me, and I should have confidence in this fact. I came away from my two days of learning feeling super confident about my writing and where I’m going with it. I decided, in comparison (as humans do) that I’ve actually got a head start on some, and that my slight apprehension about attending things like this is actually a good thing: I go there feeling I don’t know everything, and that’s exactly how it should be.