Stephen King put it best: If you want to be a writer, you have to read and write. A lot. But as work, errands, family and friends consume our days, the time to read and write dwindles to a handful of minutes.
I experienced this firsthand after graduating from college with a degree in creative writing. Soon after, my fiction became stagnant. It wasn’t a lack of ideas that stalled my pen; it was a lack of time, a lack of motivation, a lack of urgency. Or all of the above.
After letting my fiction fall to the wayside for nearly a year, I signed up for a six-week fiction workshop. Once I committed, writing was no longer optional.
Workshops are not the answer for every writer, and not all workshops end with a positive experience. But writers who are open to the format can enjoy a multitude of benefits. Whether an MFA student fresh out of college or an unpublished newbie, writers gain invaluable skills from a workshop setting. Here are the top six reasons you should give it a try.
1. Write on a regular basis.
Workshops break inhibitions, allowing writers to overcome vices such as doubt, fear, procrastination and perfection. Weekly or monthly deadlines force students to write consistently. No matter what holds the writer back, a workshop produces the same end result: words on paper.
2. Receive instant feedback.
Workshops attract participants of all ages, cultures, backgrounds and experiences. Both published pros and aspiring beginners bring unique reader perspectives to the classroom. A single comment could spark a brilliant idea for a work in progress.
3. Rebound from rejection.
Rejection is an inevitable part of publishing. But even negative feedback in the workshop can bolster a writer’s work for the big leagues. In an environment where critique is the norm, a writer can learn to bounce back from criticism and begin writing again with a fresh eye.
4. Learn from other writers.
Workshops are two-way streets, and critiquing another student’s work allows writers to see the process in action. Through workshops, writers discover the elements that work in a classmate’s story, poem or essay. Equally important, they’ll learn to recognize what mistakes to avoid in their own writing.
5. Build a writing network.
In today’s world of social media and technology, writing is no longer a solitary activity. A writing workshop provides support and connections for the future, especially when it comes time to publish. A fellow student can serve as a soundboard for projects, a companion during rejection or a connection to new opportunities.
6. Hone writing skills.
At its core, a workshop provides an environment for students to practice the art and craft of writing. As Stephen King says, the only way to become a better writer is to write. While not everything produced in a workshop will progress beyond the classroom, it can become the stepping stone a writer needs to succeed.
Find a writing workshop near you:
Boston and online: Grub Street
New York and online: Gotham Writers’ Workshop
Washington, D.C.: The Writer’s Center
Chicago: The Writers’ Loft
Denver and online: Lighthouse Writers Workshop
Seattle and online: The Writer’s Workshop
Los Angeles: Writing Workshops Los Angeles