“Writing to me is like thinking through my fingers.”
– Isaac Asimov
Nine years ago, I walked into a local writers’ workshop, and I’ve never looked back. I remember being anxious about it at first. I was a former obit writer/beat reporter who hadn’t composed anything creative in years. What if I didn’t fit in? Or worse, what if I wasn’t good enough? That first night, I wrote a short story and a type of poem called a villanelle. Oy! I thought I was way out of my league, but I left feeling like I found my long-lost family of writers.
One of the first pieces I wrote was about picking up Jenna from her Jewish overnight camp and learning she was now a vegetarian. I wondered on the page how that happened and wrongly assumed this was a phase she would quickly grow out of at the sight of her first hot dog. (She was a vegetarian for three years!)
I was encouraged to submit that story somewhere, and ultimately it was picked up by Kveller.com. (Here is that story.) Not only was I now a blogger with a byline, but I became a regular at the writing workshop. I am a better writer because of the support I’ve received from Rachel, my writing coach, and my peers. The positive feedback and constructive criticism gifted to me with each piece I submit allow me to discover something new about my craft. And the opportunity to reciprocate by supporting and helping other writers is a privilege I never take for granted.
Becoming a good literary citizen is an essential part of this training.
Since that first workshop, I’ve learned how to use em dashes and how not to rely on cliches. I know the importance of choosing strong verbs and including sensory details in a story. At the moment, my biggest challenge is remembering to put more of myself into what I write instead of just relaying what happened. This is becoming a problem because if I want to write a memoir or publish a collection of personal essays, being able to write about myself is a must.
Using all these tools, I’m building up my writing muscles to offer stories that pack a punch.
I’ve also discovered the self-care side of writing, like being kinder to myself, overcoming writer’s block, and fighting off imposter syndrome. I’ve established a routine and identified mornings as my best time for writing. I blog just about every day now but allow myself a break to avoid burnout. I feed my creative soul with excellent books, motivational quotes, good music, and long walks.
Permitting myself to indulge in self-care may be the most important part of my training.
So, even if I publish my book and sell many copies (G-d willing!), I’ll always be a writer-in-training. There is so much more for me to learn, many writers to continue supporting, and so many stories to tell. And I am here for all of it.
What have you learned about writing? Please share in the comments.