Last week, my writer's workshop had a distinctly non-modern sensibility.
First off, of the eleven of us gathered around to "workshop," there wasn't one cellphone present. People left their devices in their bags. No one was uploading "content" or living for the 'gram.
There was, in short, respect for the moment we were in. Not the moments we might be missing or going onto next.
Second, everyone did the work they were assigned. If we had to read a passage or a story, everyone read it. And gave it some thought.
Third, everyone participated. How many meetings do we have with eighteen people and three participants? Everyone did the work and everybody shared their viewpoints.
Fourth, and maybe most important for me, there wasn't a lot of pretense, affectation and bs. People spoke plainly and clearly--I'd go so far as to say lucidly.
I'd never done a writer's workshop before and, I'll admit, I was dreading it. I was afraid there'd be a good deal of navel-gazing not to mention cliques and echo-chambering.
None of that.
Here's what I learned.
1. There's joy to be had from reading good writing aloud with people who enjoy good writing.
2. Close reading, examining the details of writing, not in a masturbatory way, but in the way a detective might look for clues, is also a joy.
3. If you want to be a writer, don't think too much, or even edit too much. First, write. Then, write some more. Then, have a cuppa and write some more.
On that: Back when I was in my grad school ivory tower I took a class on Melville, Whitman and Poe. Three of America's greatest 19th Century voices.
I had a wise professor who chided me with these facts:
Poe had a couple years of college, at Virginia and the US Military Academy. But he left each school without a degree.
Neither Melville nor Whitman graduated from high school. In fact, Whitman stopped going to school at the age of 11.
In other words, it ain't schooling that'll give you the wherewithal to write. It's life.
Make yours worth writing about.
Or invent one that is.