Do writing workshops help you to write better?
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Long before I ended up back in college as a 53-year-old sophomore in pursuit of my dream of publication and in becoming a better writer, I spent the earlier part of my life trying to teach myself to write short stories. I read self-help books for writers. I read books about writing short stories. I read books on grammar and spelling and punctuation. I obsessively read the short story collections of my favorite authors. In other words, I didn’t just write; I studied my craft.
I also investigated writing workshops. All of this happened years ago; I’m writing from memory. I signed up for the Writer’s Digest Writing Workshop. The workshop was associated with the Writer’s Digest Magazine which still publishes today.
All of the instructors were published in their fields of expertise. They weren’t big-time writers but they had credentials. The workshop was operated by mail. The student got a booklet in the mail with all of the instructors’ names, photos and credentials. The student picked an instructor to work with.
Once the student had signed up, the workshop sent the student a book of coupons. The student mailed in a fee along with the coupon every month. It was a one year course and my total fee was $300. What did I get for my money?
I would mail in a short story to my personal instructor. You could only send one story at a time and you had to wait for an answer before sending in another story. About two to three weeks later I would get the story back with written corrections on the original hard copy and a typed two to three page critique.
Was the workshop worth $300? No. Did it help me to write better? Definitely yes. The workshop convinced me that I had to keep writing and keep studying my craft on my own.
There are still a lot of workshops for writers, many of them online. What a writer needs to know is that a writer must teach the self to write. That means keep writing and keep studying. Sometimes I get the feeling that too many writers just want to write and don’t want to study.