Wednesday, 24 February 2016

On Writing: Workshops and When They Don't Work Out

They say every writing class has that one successful student, that one who will go on to do great things. Well, here's my experiences of most definitely not being that student ...

A few months ago, I did a one-day writing course run by a well-known Australian author, one who is renowned for teaching various masterclasses, and one whom I have heard a lot of great things about. This is someone whose classes and courses have had many, many successful students, (who all have talent and are prepared to do what it takes to get to the top,) so there are no doubts in my mind about the quality and content of the course.

Unfortunately, I am not likely to be one of those successful students.

On a stinking hot day in early December, still suffering the aftermath of a nasty virus, not to mention an injury that has been ongoing for some months, I dragged myself out of bed first thing in the morning, and made what turned out to be an hour and a half long trip on public transport to a cafe in Norwood, where the author was running a Cafe Series workshop on commercial women's fiction. This was probably my first mistake, because writing commercial fiction is not my ultimate goal. I write because I love writing. I tell stories because the ideas come to me, and until I get it out on paper, rarely will these ideas leave me alone. I like playing with different concepts and formats, I like seeing how far I can push certain concepts. It's fun. What it does not always equate to is a formula that can be converted into money and lots of bright and beautiful stars on sites like amazon and goodreads. So why sign up for the class? Well, as a writer, I strive for constant growth and I felt that there were probably different elements of writing commercial fiction that could be taken back and applied to my own writing--and my other career of writing book reviews. And why knock a genre without even trying it?

It was a huge mistake on my part. The author was there to teach and, really, she was keen on teaching, and encouraging, those who were deadly serious about writing, succeeding and ultimately making money in this very specific field. 

I suspect that she was worried that I was going to turn in to the class clown at every turn (so not my style,) as there were a couple of instances during the day when I was shut down, or ignored. And, frankly, I could have done without the bitchiness--I really did not appreciate some comments made by her about my day job, or about a certain food allergy of mine. To be fair about it, she said nothing unkind about my actual writing, and pointed out what genres I might have potential as an author, and this was quite helpful. While the other students (all of whom were really nice people and I wish them the best with their careers,) appeared to have got a lot out of the day, and seemed to leave on a high note, I left feeling depressed. This was not my thing, these were nice people, good people, and probably soon to be extremely successful people, but not my people. 

I was, essentially, a fiction workshop failure. 

The following day I declined an invitation to join the secret facebook group for the members of the course, I asked the author to remove me from her mailing list and I tried to put the whole damn mess behind me.

The experience itself rattled my confidence as not only a writer, but as a person. Was I less worthy than the other students in the class? A lesser writer? Or was I just flat out undeserving of a spot in the class?

Or was I just different? A different person, with different goals.

I had failed the course, but I had accomplished something else. I had discovered who I was, and consolidated within myself what my goals were.