And I love it.
I've written since I was about eleven - the age of my youngest student - but I didn't have the priviliege of having my stories critiqued by fellow writers nor, outside of my English Language and English Lit classes, did I have the opportunity to learn about the craft of writing. Even then, in Language, we learnt basics (metaphor, simile) and in Lit it was about plot, character lists, setting and theme. My workshop is open to all kinds of writing because I don't have the time, unfortunately, to run separate workshops. Really, though, writing and creating stories is the same regardless of the kind of writing you do. Ultimately, I'm teaching what I know about the creative process and not just about form, style, voice, POV, structure, etc. Furthermore, with raw, young writers, it's about the commonalities of character development and "show, don't tell" that we're concentrating on.
I don't mention this to pat myself on the back for providing a free writing workshop. That's not why I'm writing this post. What I do want to say is that it's been a tremendously rewarding experience. It's been inspiring, too, and adds a boost to my own writing projects. I've managed to maintain daily writing, since I 'won' NaNoWriMo last November, but sharing what has been shared with me about writing, from what I've learnt from places like The Gotham Writer's Workshop, helps me keep on my toes. As a result of running my workshop, I've become more diligent about reading my Writer's Digest and Publisher's Weekly subscriptions for anything that might help my students develop in their writing pursuits. I've also become extra motivated to finish some of the projects I'm working on. And, giving my students suggestions and ideas, I'm able to look at my own plotlines and character motivations with a more discerning eye.
What's really exciting is to listen to my students talk about their work. They have grand ideas about being the next Michael Bay or Peter Jackson or Christopher Nolan and about the second and third books of their dystopian/scifi novels, even though the first one isn't near being finsihed. I don't say this condescendingly, the way some adults with experience and/or expertise in an area sometimes do when young people talk about their goals and dreams in that same area. Rather, I am genuinely excited to hear what they have to say because their enthusiasm is contagious and it reminds me of when I started taking writing seriously and how I had the same dreams. Now, wiser, I still have those dreams and aspirations but they're tempered with understanding. I've had some some success and more failure but, yet, I forge on. Moreover, some of the students in my workshop are really tuned in and have great instincts as far as character developement and character motivation are concerned. One of them, the screenwriter, has a fantastic idea that he's obviously been thinking about and plotting for a long time. And, my dystopian writer, has some unique storylines that the fans of Divergent, Legend, The Hunger Games and Twilight will enjoy. The ideas she has, as far as I am aware, have not come up in any recent works of popular YA fiction. She's really on to something and I'm proud to be helping her develop her voice and writing style and her story; especially as a fan of some of those books I listed.
Running this workshop, which I try to run like a Gotham Writer's Workshop class with 'The Booth' as our critiquing format, has been a great way for me to share what I've learnt about writing and, hopefeully, a way for some young people to get closer to realising their own hopes and dreams. It's my way of giving something back to the writing community that has welcomed me into its membership. It's also made me realise that, while I still have much to learn, I have already learnt a lot. Last week, with only my screenwriter's work being critiqued, I helped him get through some major stumbling blocks and there were several 'lightbulb' and 'Aha!' moments that will move his story forward. It was a fantastic session-each is only an hour long-and it made me feel like I was in the writers' room, collaborating ideas, for a movie or TV show. It felt good, for me, to help him breakthrough. This class has also reinforced the importance of sharing your work; of talking it out and workshopping pages. Writers need each other.
Last school year, 2011-2012, I ran one Creative Writing workshop and I had two students. This year, I have three and we're in our second six-week session. The writing is pretty good, too, and with each submission it's getting better. It's exciting to see students come in with their own ideas, some more fleshed out than others but all with great passion and enthusiasm. For those of you reading this post who are writers, and you don't already do so, I encourgae you to run a program. Some of you might do so professionally already, as a writing teacher in an MFA program or through a workshop like Gotham. Some of you might be freelanceers, like me, who still have a day job and spends early mornings and late nights getting your pages written. Whoever you are, remember why you started writing and, when you meet a young person who writes or who expresses an interest in starting, make sure you help nurture his or her passion for it.
Happy writing all!