Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Friday, April 16, 2010

Once Upon a Workshop

Well, twelve weeks have passed, and my writing workshop at Toasted Cheese has officially come to a close. Over the past three months, what began as a robust group of fifteen writers dwindled to a mere five who consistently posted work every week.

And I wasn’t one of them.

I only submitted writing for 5 of the workshop’s 12 weeks. Nevertheless, I consider the experience to be a resounding success. Sure, you may look upon my poor completion rate (41.7%) and feel that it’s more in line with Shaq’s free throw percentage (42.2% in 2006-07) than with any modern criteria for success. But, as luck would have it, you’re not the one writing this blog post.

I gained far more from the workshop than that number shows. For instance, four stories in my portfolio only exist because they fulfilled specific criteria for our weekly assignments; I never would have dreamt them up otherwise. Another two I hadn’t expected to get to for years. The final tally:
  • one seriously absurd tale with an unexpected twist at the end;1
  • one absurdly serious tale with, unexpectedly, no twist at the end;2
  • two tales comprising only dialogue, which can be read within these very pages (Tale the First / Tale the Second);
  • one rewritten opening scene (from my first attempt at a novel); and
  • one brand new opening scene (for what might be my next attempt at a novel).
The other participants provided some great feedback on these pieces, but I feel I may have benefited even more from the critiques that I gave. Reading other peoples’ works-in-progress proved invaluable,3 because it gave me the chance to see which of their ideas worked and which didn’t, then figure out how I’d improve the latter. Many times, as I was suggesting a fix for some story, I recognized that stuff I had written outside the workshop had the very same flaw(s). Now, thanks to these exercises, I should be able to write with a much more critical and subjective eye, and notice any problem spots the moment I write them.4

What I gained most from this workshop, however, is confidence. I’d always believed I was a decent writer, and I knew from both emails and this blog that I could entertain friends and family. But I had no idea what sort of appeal my writing might have out in the real world. Yet all five pieces I posted for the workshop garnered praise from people who were not only writers but also complete strangers.

You know, maybe I have a chance with this writing thing after all.

1 As opposed to an expected twist; after all, I don’t write for Hollywood.
2 Of course, what I call “absurdly serious,” others may call “literary.” To each his own.
3 “Invaluable” means “really valuable,” just as “inflammable” means “really flammable” and “indignant” means “really dignant.”
4 Wow, I was so naïve back then, back before I wrote this footnote.

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