Writing Workshop Tips and Takeaways

So there I was on a beautiful spring Sunday morning. Armed with my coffee, writer’s notebook and pen; ready to be inspired and write. I was on my way to a writing workshop taught by author Judy Reeves at San Diego Writer, Ink.

While I have been writing for most of my life, this was the first actual class I’ve taken on the subject (aside from college journalism courses). The workshop focused on the basic of concepts — ways to get words down on the page, pure and simple. I’m not quite sure what I expected the class to be like, but I was pleased to come away with several pages of fresh writing; new ideas on how to inspire my writing; and a few tips and concepts that really opened my eyes as a writer.

I’d like to share with you three ideas I took from this day of writing and how they resonated with me and my life. While these concepts are not new, they certainly opened up my mind (and pen).

1. Carry with you at all times a writer’s notebook. Judy encourages all writers to carry with them a small notebook or pad that you keep with you 24/7 to write down ideas or inspiration. So if you come up with a great idea while driving, you write it down (hopefully pulling over to do so), thereby avoiding the inevitable, What was that great idea?, when you get home.

My writer’s notebook is a small, simple black leather reporter’s notebook that Bryan gave me for my birthday last year. He took the gift a step further by embossing my initials on the cover. This gift came at a time when I was fully embracing writing and Bryan wanted to give me something that was meaningful and encouraged my dreams. So when Judy suggested carrying a notebook at all times, I already knew the exact book I’d start carrying with me.

2. Writing memory is essentially writing fiction. I never considered myself a fiction writer. I didn’t think I had the creativity and imagination to come up with characters, plots and ideas to support a novel. I thought of myself as a writer of memoir, facts or my opinions.

But Judy said something that gave me an “a ha” moment. She said that everyone has different memories of common experiences. This is why in families, I may remember an experience completely differently from my sisters. Those memories are individual ideas, are subjective, and are true only to ourselves. Hence writing our memories is essentially fiction writing. I’d never thought this way before and for the first time, actually envisioned writing a work of fiction based on my memories (changing names and identifying details, of course).

3. If you want to write but don’t have time, you must sacrifice something to write. For many people, this can mean giving up television or surfing the internet at night. While I don’t feel as if I’m at a loss for time to write, this idea summed up the process I went through to get to where I am now. That is ever since I changed my “day job” to one where I write for a living (albeit factual writing), I feel as if my mind and brain have opened up. I’m now in my element, playing to my strengths. I feel as if I’m so much more creative and have so many ideas for writing, projects, and the like. So sacrificing my former mindset has given me the freedom to write and create.

I’m not suggesting you quit your day job tomorrow in order to write. But if you feel as if you’re not writing or you’re holding back your potential, look at other aspects of your life and see if those things need sacrificing (or changing) so your mind and time can open up to writing.

So there you have it — three writing workshop tips that have changed my writing outlook. I also learned some great writing prompts that sparked interesting pieces I’ve penned. I’ll share a few of these pieces in future blog posts.

Tell me about writing workshops you’ve attended. What are the best lessons and writing tips you’ve received? 

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