Writing is something that I do for myself. It gives me the opportunity to sit back, relax and enjoy a guilt-free cup of tea and a few Tim Tams (or in this morning’s case, freshly baked gingerbread cookies, ah the joys of Christmas!). As you can imagine, on a rather fresh day, curled up on the sofa, with my fingers punching away at my laptop, I am in my element. Complete comfort. Which up until recently I thought was A-Ok.
However since deciding to take my writing to the next level, I have realised that sometimes you need to break out of that cosy comfort zone, in order to be a little more productive. After managing to eat my way through an entire packet of Tim Tams last week, and only produce a measly paragraph, I decided it was time to try something new.
This new inspiration came in the form of participating in my first writing workshop. And let me just say, it will not be my last! Although sharing your work with fellow writers is a very confronting experience, it is something that makes you a braver and better writer. I had never been exposed to so many talented and unique minds, all with something brilliant to contribute. Listening and learning from them has definitely reinvigorated my writing, and has motivated me to share some of the benefits with you:
1. Learning to appreciate constructive criticism
More often than not sharing your work can be a daunting experience. Especially in the context where criticism is always guaranteed. Therefore, we tend to gravitate toward our closest family and friends for feedback, knowing that their encouragement will come from a place of love. The problem with this is that your writing may never be challenged, and without being challenged, you may never know your full potential.
Constructive criticism allows you to learn from others who share your passion. Hearing your work being picked apart for the first time may be a bit rough, but it really is a great way to prepare you for what’s to come in the near future. As a professional writer you are bound to receive critical feedback, some of which you may not want to hear.
But having attended writing workshops you will be able to realise and appreciate how beneficial receiving feedback is, especially from talented writers that you will grow to respect. Growing a thicker skin and accepting your weaknesses as a writer, is vital to flourishing in the professional world. At first it might be difficult, but after a few workshops, you will begin to look forward receiving criticism. This may sound unlikely, but realising your full potential can be truly gratifying.
2. Helping others improve their work
Participating in writing workshops doesn't only involve accepting feedback, it also involves giving it. This is great, because it gives you a reason to expand your horizons, and gain exposure to different types of literature. Pushing your boundaries will not only help you to develop a critical eye when giving feedback, it will also give you the opportunity to learn new techniques to implement into your own work.
For example, I have a habit of writing from the perspective of the hero of the story. However after hearing a fellow writer’s article written from an outsiders perspective I was inspired, and realised that by simply changing narrators, I would have the ability to change the story entirely. Having a broad scope of literature can only improve your writing; by increasing your knowledge, you are opening yourself up to new possibilities and creativity.
3. Meeting others who share your passion
Creative writing workshops exist both online and offline. Both mediums offer positives, however the most important thing to consider is that being part of any workshop gives you the chance to be part of a community. Writing is often something we do in solitude, often believing a quiet environment and sense of calm will inspire our words onto paper. However, you would be surprised, just how accurate the expression ‘two heads are better than one,’ really is.
Workshopping gives you the opportunity to share your love of writing, as well as new ideas, insights and conversation with people who are genuinely interested in your passion. Being able to bounce thoughts off like-minded people is truly invaluable. Workshops provide the perfect space for sharing passing thoughts, which can grow into fully encapsulated ideas with the help of fellow writers. Furthermore, they also offer you the chance to break out of your comfort zone, meet new people and potentially make lifelong friends.
4. Discovering your strengths
Whether creative writing is your true calling or just a hobby, gaining some outside perspective is definitely beneficial. Learning where your strengths lay will give your work direction, as well as giving you some well-deserved encouragement. Refining your strengths will not only improve your writing, but will also make your weaknesses easier to accept. Let’s face it, no one’s perfect!
5. Keeping you motivated
Sometimes writing can be as simple breathing. Other times, you may struggle to write even a sentence. It’s very easy to lose motivation when the words just won’t flow, and minutes of rest become hours, days or even weeks. But trust me, just like exercising, without continual training it just gets harder. Having a group of people to keep you accountable, will definitely give you the motivation you need to keep going. Knowing that you will be expected to share your work will ensure you put in your best effort. Workshopping your writing will keep you on your toes, and will help you to develop better writing habits to improve your skills all round.
If you’re not sure about your writing capabilities, are stuck in a bit of slump, need some motivation, or just want to meet people who share your passion, then workshopping your writing is definitely for you. Sharing ideas, insights and feedback is a surefire way to improve your work and will certainly help you to learn and grow as writer and as an individual.