Last week, I had the first session of my creative writing workshop. Personally, I do not have the patience nor the discipline to sit down and write for a long period of time, nor for any other activity to be honest. However, having had a good amount of literature and other classes that focused on writing and reading during my studies, I decided to pass on a bit of that knowledge. This is how it went…
The plan for my workshop was quite simple. Step one – introduce myself and make them fill the necessary paperwork. Then lower the expectations with a video from Brandon Sanderson, a famous writer, who also holds creative writing classes where he says that he cannot teach you how to write well. Step two – continue with a theoretical part about types of narrators and where they can be used in writing. Step three – finish the rest of the workshop with writing exercises using these narrative styles.
I began with a very quick and nervous introduction. I barely remember what I mentioned to be honest. While they were filling the necessary paperwork, I had them introduce themselves. Every minute counts, right? I asked them for their name and a favourite piece of writing, be it a book or short story. The second after they said their names, I had already forgotten them, and almost nobody listed any favourite writings. I played the Brandon Sanderson video, and told them about my philosophy on writing which was an amalgamation of random pieces of knowledge I had gathered throughout my life. Read a lot. Write a lot. Copy good authors, and eventually you will copy and combine enough styles to make a style of your own.
Luckily, I had prepared well for this part. Using the spare few hours earlier in the day, I managed to pull out excerpts from the internet to showcase the different narrators. I put it all nicely in a presentation, highlighting the key takeaways from each approach. I made an effort to engage the participants and asked questions about the excerpts and the styles. I would consider the attempts pretty successful. They were for sure more active than the students during my university studies. I guess actively participating makes sense when it is not for something your parents are making you attend.
Now that I had successfully imparted all my knowledge, it was time to put it into practice. I found a random writing prompt, and that was the basis for the first writing exercise. Luckily, most of them brought their own notebooks, so I did not have to waste our papers from the office. The writing prompt read “the hall was silent” and the task was to create a story starting with it by using a second person narrator. Instead of staring at a wall for 10 minutes while they are writing the story, I decided to also write, and hopefully get a better understanding of the task. The time flew by and I was glad I made that decision on the spot. Everybody finished and then read their own story for themselves which then followed with some questions about the experience and difficulties with writing in second person.
The last two exercises were connected. In the first part, they were asked to remember a recent conflict in their own personal lives, and then write about it, but from the perspective of the other person. This task was to be done using the first-person narrator. Thinking is very much a necessary part of writing, so I believe that exercises where you have to put yourself into other people’s shoes are very much beneficial. Some of them found it difficult to do exactly that while distancing their own personal feelings regarding the situation. I found myself failing in that regard too, and I ended up giving the narrator my personality. Anyways, I was leading the workshop, so I did not shed a tear about that one.
The final one
This last one was tricky because now they had to redo the story, but using a third person narrator. I did not want to restrict them too much, so I let them pick their own style as long as it was in a third person. They all seemed pretty engaged with their own writings; some of them so much that they did not even listen to my directions to finish and read over their own writings.
One could say that time flew by and the first workshop was over. I would like to call it a success, but who knows how many of them will be returning for the second one. Until then…