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Workshopping Pros and Cons

Workshopping Pros and Cons

A Session with Peter Murphy

It has been my experience that any discussion about creative writing workshops can become emotive, divisive and, on rare occasions, downright combative. So let’s begin by assuming that there is, as in most things, both good and bad.

For a great many aspiring writers, including myself, workshops can be the classrooms in which we can learn the accepted dos and don’ts of writing and where the acorn of whatever talent we possess might get all the encouragement and nurturing it needs to grow.

Presenting workshops can also provide a means for writers; nascent, struggling, and published, to keep body and soul together until the reading world discovers them, and that is not such a bad thing either. But for the habitual workshopper, and we all know a few of them, they can become the couch of complacency. “Going to workshop,” can become a salve for the conscience when the aspiring writer might be better off alone in a garret, sweating and bleeding out every word of the great book that will forever change human existence.

All that said, let’s have a look at some of the more common reasons given for attending workshops.

Making the commitment

Born and Bred by Peter MurphyYes, committing time and usually money is a definite “pro.” It is a declaration to yourself and others that you are serious about this. Never mind that you have previously taken out membership at gyms that you never got around to using; this is about writing and, deep down inside, you’ve always known that you were born to become a writer – and as an aspiring writer with a fresh and unique insight into the human condition, you have learned that a commitment means nothing if it is not kept.

It is also a statement of intent: you are going to go and learn something about the craft of writing and, hopefully, about yourself and your abilities. My experience would suggest that going in with a clearly defined goal is important. Those who assume that a few workshops will turn them into writers might be risking disappointment. But fear naught; with workshops that specialize in many of the different aspects of the craft, it is possible to select a series of courses that will allow you to become familiar with the topics you will need to know.

That said, it would seem logical to me that you begin with a general topic to see if you have what it takes. Beyond that, consider following a linear trail from plotting, through character development, to all the nuances of backdrop and all the other things that you will need to know.

Exercise 1
Research, find, and commit to at least one workshop.


Writing to deadline

We often hear of the value of good habits, and getting involved in a regular workshop where you are expected to produce a new or reworked piece