|Ray Bradbury teaches me to focus on detail.|
I've come across writers dismissing writing classes as a waste of time.
I'm wondering if those people are attending the right workshops, or if they're attending with the best attitude? Being a course junkie, I've seen the usual personality types that come to courses and there's always a few people that are terrified of 'failing' the activities. They're certain they'll be the worst in the class and humiliate themselves. Often they won't read out their work, or participate in discussions. They'll sit up the back and build an invisible forcefield around themselves and it works. But it doesn't just stop humiliation getting through, it prevents feedback, encouragement and growth in their craft.
At the other end of the spectrum are the students who need to come first at everything. They're incredibly competitive and can sometimes be harsh with critiques (both receiving and giving). They'll sign up for a beginners cooking class, even if they're a seasoned chef because they want to come home after every class and say, 'I really wowed them tonight, I'm way better than the teacher'. They walk away reassured, but haven't pushed themselves outside their comfort zone, as a result their writing hasn't had a chance for growth.
I don't want to be the best writer, and I'm not afraid of being the worst. I've written a lot of crappy stuff. In fact, in writing workshops, on the spur of the moment, all my writing is clunky and crappy. But I'm learning and improving. I don't want to be the best writer, I want to be the most-improved. I don't believe the sum is greater than the parts (well okay I do, 'cause the maths people insist but only if by greater they mean more). More is not better, it's just more. I don't want to be the best writer, I want to be the best writer I can be today. And I want that level to be way lower than it will be next month.
I read authors' works and acknowledge how much better they are at sentence structure, description, dialogue, weaving themes. Then I put aside my jealousy and celebrate their skill. Talent you're born with, but skill can only be acquired by working at it. So, I work at it.
I'm using short fiction to tighten my writing style and I've been studying Ray Bradbury's stories. Simple, approachable, magical. I'm practicing zooming in on a small detail, to make the story come alive, the way Bradbury does. I've also challenged myself to write in second person, because he pulled it off so beautifully in one of his stories.
I hope as writers you can feel proud of your progress and excited about the lessons to come. Embrace the learning. You don't have to take on writing classes to learn, there are many ways, but writing classes can still be a good source of information.
What challenges are you going to tackle to push your writing?