Writing Workshop Week 14: The Wind-up
Last day of class, writerlings. All assignments have been turned in and everyone's ready for the long break.
So a few things before we finish our little virtual workshop. First, thanks to everyone who played the home game. Your contributions were extraordinary. I'm inspired by your energy and your ways with words. Here's my final "lecture."
Learn to love writing. Better, learn to love your own writing. When you find your voice as a writer, you'll find yourself brimming over with ways to use it.
Keep thinking like a writer. Story ideas are everywhere. All you have to do is keep those antennae up and the world will deliver the messages.
Keep living like a writer. That means making time for it every day, no exceptions. Even if it's just 10 minutes.
Don't get stuck. I've never believed in writer's block. But when the muse ain't talking to me, I get creative in other ways (taterquoise jewelry, anyone?). I had an art professor in college who used to say "listen to the clay." If the clay doesn't want to be a flowerpot, then it will crack in the kiln. She'd also say "Clay doesn't want to be square" to anyone trying to make a four-sided baking dish. Words are your clay. Listen to them. If they don't want to be a short story, make them a play. If they aren't working as a poem, make them a song. And if they don't work on the page, paint them in giant letters on a canvas (worked for Ruscha).
Accuracy counts. Your credibility lives in your accuracy. That applies to literature as well as email. Kids, when you email a prof, CHECK THE SPELLING AND GRAMMAR. You'd be surprised how much of an impression your most casual communications can make. (Ditto profs, when you email back to the students. Set an example!) When you submit your work for publication, check it, double-check it and don't count on SpellCheck to do you any favors. If you have to, find a professional proofreader and pay her or him to read your work to catch errors.
Don't be afraid of your audience. Whether you're stepping up at a poetry slam or putting yourself out there on a blog, don't let the "aginners" scare you or discourage you. Remember, the dogs bark as the caravan passes by.
And I'll leave you with these words of advice that I used to tell every class on the final day: Besides becoming good writers, you should learn to do some other things before you get out of college. Here they are.
1. Learn to change a tire.
2. Learn to make cornbread from scratch.
3. Volunteer to help others who need your help.
4. Get to know your grandparents. Very often, by the time you have time to spend with them, they're no longer able to (for whatever reasons). When you're young, they still are, too. So whether it's by phone, email, letter or in person, learn who they are. Get their stories down. Appreciate them. They love you already. Become interested in them and you'll give them the thrill of their lives, I guarantee. When you're their age, you won't regret a minute you spent with your elders.
5. Become transparent. By that, I mean be honest in your writing, in your business and in your personal life. When you love, say it to the person loved. Don't be afraid of speaking your feelings. Or writing them. Open up. Lighten up. The light within you is great. Let it shine.
I hope that over these past few months you've picked up a few tips you can use as writers. Maybe you discovered a new creative channel or felt a tiny spark of inspiration. Maybe you just learned, at last, when to use who and whom.
I'll keep blogging new stories, news and tidbits. But for now, writing class is dismissed, y'all.
I'd love to hear what you're writing right now. Leave some tantalizing examples in comments, if you dare to. Or just write whatever you want. How about your ideas for what everyone should know before they grad-jee-ate?
Write on, my friends! And when you see me in the bookstore, say howdy.