Writers are not always a social lot. We tend to spend a lot of time skulking in our Writer Caves, punching out words and resenting intrusions from the real world. After all, writing is a solitary activity, for the most part. And how else are we supposed to earn our Moody Artist Merit Badges?*
But every now and then we need to forage for supplies to sustain us through the long days hunched over a keyboard: trail mix, coffee, character traits. And, on occasion, knowledge.
Yesterday afternoon I dressed like an adult and went to a writing workshop. First one I’ve been to since grad school. Honestly, the first creative writing workshop period. The grad school ones tended to be more academic, and had topics like: “How to finish your thesis without decorating your office with the skin of those who persist on knocking at your door in spite of the Do Not Disturb sign.”**
The topic of this workshop was writing place. All about creating and echoing places in your writing, making them real. And it was pretty damn interesting. We did some exercises that I’m probably going to use in new projects. And it think it’ll be particularly helpful when it comes time to rewrite Strangers, the manuscript that is being changed entirely based on the location. That’s a story that will need a rich setting, and some of the ideas I got from yesterday’s workshop are going to go a long way towards helping me flesh that out.
The workshop was taught by Dr. Lynda Hawryluk from Central Queensland University in Australia, who has apparently been exiled from her own sunny homeland to this cold, fog-bound stretch of rock for a time.*** She was great, and I got a lot out of her workshop. I’d call it food for thought, but considering what my thoughts eat, that might be disturbing.
As a writer, it’s damn easy to just stay home all the time, but you’ll miss out on a lot that way. And not just the parts that make you a real person instead of a creepy writer sock-puppet. There are people out there that you can learn from. Quite a few of them. It’s worth getting out now and then and seeing what’s going on around your community with regard to writing. As I said before, I belong to a regular writer’s group, and I’ve checked out the local book launches. And, of course, the workshop. And I live in a small town, so those of you who have cities at your disposal probably have even more options. Check out universities, libraries, and local bookstores. Read the posters taped to the door of your local coffee shop or pub. You might find something worthwhile.
So get out there. Learn from others. And then scuttle back to your Writer Cave and put it to use.
Post Script: I just learned that Ray Bradbury has died, aged 91. I think I’ll go re-read some of his short stories today. And I’ve always loved this quotation from him: “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Good night, Ray. I’ll miss you.
*I’ve got two in Death Stare Which Repels Outsiders.
**Which was helpful, I must say.
***I don’t know what she did, but it must have been fucking dire.