Writing workshops are the easiest place to find likeminded writers, to get catered feedback in the areas of writing you love, and to meet industry professionals. They’re a great opportunity to dig deeper in your craft, your career and your passion, and they’re almost always a great source of encouragement and joy.
As someone who works in an organisation that runs tons of these, I’ve been to a bunch. Perhaps I’ve been lucky, but I’ve had a specific take-away from each one, and I’ve always felt that they were worth the cost.
If you’d like to join a workshop but aren’t sure where to start, contact your state writers centre to see if they have any that you might be interested in. If you let them know what you love writing, they might even have some other opportunities to share with you as well.
Take Notes—But Not Too Many
Part of going to a workshop is being inundated with loads of information, and to get your money’s worth, you really do need to take notes that you can go over later. But there is the danger of taking too many notes, retreating into your laptop or notebook, and missing the things the tutor and the people around you are saying.
When you get into the workshop, take a look at any handouts you’re given. How detailed are they? If the tutor has a presentation, is what they’re saying on the presentation in the notes? How much of what the tutor is saying do you need to write down, and how much is common sense or anecdotal?
A strategy I like to use is writing short, snappy notes while the tutor is talking, and then spending 5 or 10 minutes on my break writing a short summary. That way I can be fully engaged with what the tutor is saying, and writing the summary helps me to retain the memories for longer.
Ask Questions & NETWORK WITH THE TUTOR
When going to a workshop, remember that the tutor is an industry professional, and they very well could give you the piece of information that takes your writing or your career to the next level. Of course, this won’t necessarily happen at every workshop, but it is a possibility as long as you’re generous, open and willing to seize the opportunity.
Writing workshops are a rare chance to dissect an industry professional’s brain, so you should! Ask questions and engage with the content. Don’t handicap yourself by being too afraid to ask questions or talk to the tutor. Workshop tutors teach because they love sharing their knowledge and resources with other writers.
Some questions, of course, might be more appropriate to ask the tutor during a break or shortly after the course. It’s never great for the other participants if one person takes up a workshop with personalised questions about their career. Don’t make it awkward for the tutor to leave, but feel free to give them some personal details about what you’re working on and ask for advice. You’ll get bonus points (and better advice) if it’s clear you’ve done some research beforehand.
Talk to Other Writers & Share Your Work
You’re in a room bursting with other writers and creatives—talk to them! It is totally fine to ask for someone’s email address, or suggest that everyone in the group join an email list. People go to writing courses to meet people who love writing the same stuff that they do, so put yourself out there.
Sharing your work is always terrifying, but it’s the best way to get immediate feedback on your work. The tutor is likely to give you some encouragement or suggestion, and you’re way more likely to actually improve your skills if you’re willing to take that on. And the other people in the room likely have some great feedback for you too!
If you’re not sure how to find writing friends, this might be it. Remember that everyone else in the room is serious enough about their writing to pay to attend the course, and they’re probably writing in the same genre or style that you’re interested in. If you don’t quite find what you’re looking for, contact the organisation running the course to see if they know of any local writing groups that might suit you.
Set a Goal & Action it Within 24 Hours
Before you leave the workshop, set yourself a quantifiable goal to practice what you have learned. Make it measurable, realistic and tangible, and write down exactly what you want to do. You might have an idea of this goal going into the workshop, but the content of the workshop may influence what it ends up being.
Your mission is then to take the first step towards this goal within the next 24 hours. The motivation is always the strongest closest to the workshop, when the knowledge is still fresh. Workshops are some of the most encouraging things you can do as a writer, and the most empowering, but they’re not worth the money if you don’t use what you’ve learned to improve your skills and habits as a writer.