It’s been a year since I graduated from Odyssey. Don’t get me wrong—best writing experience ever. I’m not second guessing, not a chance. But, workshops will mess with you. They throw your writing zen seriously out of whack.

You’ll hear, if you’ve been to a workshop or if you ever go, “You’ll have so much in your head. It’ll take you awhile to assimilate it before you’ll see it pay benefits in your writing.” That’s true, and, for me at least, it’s manifested in more than one way.

Here’s the deal. If you’ve been paying attention, then you know all about the creative/writer side of your writing persona, and the editor side. It’s a delicate dynamic. One that needs to be managed very carefully. Writer write, editor be quiet. Editor edit, writer go to sleep.

Workshops will inspire you, but they won’t make you more creative. After all, you were pretty creative going in, or you wouldn’t be there. What workshops will do is send your inner editor into a state of insane, hyperactive overdrive. That delicate balance you’ve so carefully managed gets smashed like Bambi beneath Godzilla’s big toe.

Your editor thinks it is in charge now.

Here are some of the traps that your pushy little editor might lead you into, at least mine has:

    You don’t know what you don’t know

Those same people who tell you to assimilate will also tell you that you’ll go through this phase of “My writing sucks. I can see that now. I can see I’m sucking, but I don’t know how to fix it.” That’s your newly supercharged editor talking. And it won’t shut up. If you let it, the editor will talk to you 24/7; while you’re eating breakfast, or driving to grandma’s, or watching ‘The Walking Dead.’

Controlling this one takes the same discipline you’ve hopefully been using all along, just ramped up a little. Slap that editor voice a little more forcefully than before and tell it, “Shut up! You’ll get your turn. Let me write. This story won’t go anywhere without your input. But. Not. Right. Now.”

    Revision tunnel vision

Oh wow! I’ve just finished a workshop and have six new rough drafts that have been torn to bloody little pieces by my instructors and classmates. I gotta finish these and get them out! I must validate my experience by getting out a “Finished Product.”

Here’s the problem. Workshops teach your inner-editor two main skills: how to see problems in your work, and how to fix problems in your work. The problem is, the seeing comes pretty quickly. The fixing doesn’t. Now you have this two foot stack of critiques pointing out in torturous detail every flaw in your pathetic broken stories. And you can see they’re broken. You can even see how they’re broken. Your inner editor is giving you a rundown, point-by-point, in meticulous detail. But you can’t fix them. Instead, you end up writing more just-as-flawed revisions, which your inner editor is more than happy to vomit on. You end up pounding your forehead against your desk and realizing that doing the dishes sounds much more interesting than writing. It stops being fun.

Here’s my advice, and I’m coming late to my own party, it took me nearly a year to realize this. DON’T FORGET TO WRITE! Feed your creative side. Inner editor brain is essential to the process, but he tends to be a grumpy, judgemental sort—the kind you don’t want to extended amounts of time with. Let your creative side out, let it remind you how much you love this writing thing. Find the joy. Slap that editor down when he tries to interfere and promise him that he’ll get his chance soon enough.

    The Submission Game

So, now you have all these newly acquired workshop tools, and writing wisdom flowing out your ears. You must get out there and submit! Otherwise, what was the point? You’ve been taught all this valuable information and you have to return the favor by proving that the time spent on you was worthwhile. You must become a Published Writer.

Slow down. The workshop is only the first ten percent of the experience. All of that knowledge that you soaked up (and you did soak it up) takes time to filter through the dense mush of brain matter and settle into a place where you can actually use it. It may happen more quickly for some than others, but unless you are some sort of writing genius (and I question their existence), it will take some time. So, patience. Keep churning out new stuff. Let it suck. Each new thing you do rattles the brain and causes that knowledge to seep farther in until it eventually gets to a place where it’s no longer separate from you, but a part of your inner writer, as natural as breathing or recognizing run-on sentences.

Do submit. But allow it to be part of the process, not the entire goal of the process. Write because you love it. Share when it’s ready. Cherish your workshop experience, and use every tool it provides. But don’t let it take you to a place where you forget how much you love creating stories. After all, that’s the point. Isn’t it?

Let me know your experience.

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