Why a Writer’s Workshop

I like to tell the story of one of my students who was at a writer’s conference in
Pennsylvania to pitch a chapter book she had been working on in my Words in Play
workshops. I was the first person she called with the news that a publisher wanted to buy
her book. Now, this was great, but what made it even greater was that this woman joined
my workshops about two and a half years prior to that moment, and in that short span of
time she had completed the manuscript for this chapter book, written parts of another
chapter book to be in the series, written an outline and several chapters for a full length
novel, published several magazine articles online and in print, published several poems,
and started her own blog.

The point I’m trying to make is that she almost didn’t write any of it. She wanted to
write; she just didn’t know how to get the stories out of her head and onto the page.
That’s where the writing workshop comes in. This dear person, I’ll call her “Z,” joined
the group with as much hesitancy as anyone could have and still show up. The writer’s
workshop was a place where she could feel safe to share her ideas, play with new ideas,
and receive the constructive feedback she needed to make real progress. Her stories took
shape in every class. She learned that the support of a committed group of writers is more
important than knowing where or how to begin.

Begin anywhere. Stories are made up of a mosaic of scenes. If you create one scene, it’s a
beginning, but it doesn’t mean you can’t move that scene to the middle. I’m sure you’ve
heard this before: writing is 90% discipline – you’ve got to write every day. I do know
that if you don’t have support (a cheering section, critical feedback, ways to generate new
ideas, proper guidance) you can have all the discipline in the world, but you may never
get out the door to roadtest your work.

Begin anywhere, but if you have stories inside you, find a great group of like-minded
writers and just begin. It’s the best advice I can give.