Falling Splat—Do Workshops Really Pick You up Again?

I am a workshop junkie.  There, I said it.

In my writing career I have attended so many writing workshops I can’t begin to tell you how many.  (Dear Hubby probably could.)

A workshop—unlike a fun-filled conference—is a focused class, complete with homework and exercises and lots of learning.  Workshops don’t come cheap.  There can be quite an investment of time as well as money.  Here are some of my conclusions about workshops in general:

The time is right for a workshop when I start to:

  1. Develop bad habits—otherwise known as getting lazy.
  2. Develop doubts—how can I finish my WIP if I unwrite more words than I put down?
  3. Develop a critical voice that tries to tell me my remaining words are sludge.

The way I choose the right workshop to attend:

  1. Word of mouth—when someone recommends a great workshop, and then I see evidence of the recommendation in that person’s work.
  2. Location—if it’s too enticing a place (Hawaii in winter comes to mind), I’ll go to the place but not attend the workshop.
  3. The workshop focuses on what I need to learn, and when in my career I’m ready to hear it.

Once I get to the workshop, here’s the process:

  1. Going splat—finding out how much I don’t know turns my writing upside down and inside out.
  2. Unlearning—clearing out the stuff that doesn’t work and/or misinformation.
  3. Picking myself up—being willing to try new experiments takes me to new levels of writing.

Some possible side-effects:

  1. Dumbfoundedness
  2. Emotional battles, ranging from hopelessness to anger to elation
  3. Thick skin-itis

Advantages of a workshop:

  1. Camaraderie among like minds
  2. An explosion of ideas
  3. The little engine syndrome—I think I can, I know I can.


  1. Sleep deprivation
  2. Potential hazards, such as letting negativity creep in
  3. Fried brains

So, yes!  Workshops can definitely pick you up.  But you have to be ready to fall first.


10 thoughts on “Falling Splat—Do Workshops Really Pick You up Again?”

  1. So true Sue. I’ve only attended one workshop – Writer’s Police Academy- and you have completely covered all the bases. I must admit, it was a heady experience to be in a room of 300 or so people knowing everyone was plotting a murder of some sort :). By the end of the workshop, my mind was full. Thank you for the pointers on when it’s time to go again.


  2. I’ve done a fair amount of workshops, both in person and online. Yes, that first day “deer in the headlights” feeling can definitely make you go splat. “But I thought I was ahead of this.” And I can relate to the swing of emotions, too. But I can honestly say that the workshops I’ve attended have made me a better writer and left me more energized than despondent.


  3. I referred to one workshop experience as getting one layer of skin peeled off very politely. But it made my writing better. I can relate to the swing of emotions and the need to relearn and unlearn. All of it, really.


  4. I’ve done lots of workshops, both online and in person. And you’re so right: they can trigger both doubts and motivations. I called my husband on the way home from one recently and said, “I don’t even know why I’m trying to do this. I’ll NEVER be able to do this.” Then the next morning, I woke up at 5 am and started writing immediately. Roller coaster city.


  5. Thanks for the comments, All! Yep, workshops are definitely a heady experience. Love the peeling skin and roller coaster comparisons! Right, Kimberly, one day! Keep on writing.


  6. I do it every month with a critique group. The first few times were rough. But my writing got sharper and more focused. Every month I get recharged.


  7. Sometimes conferences attach a workshop as a side attraction, Pamela. Maybe one that you attend will do that?

    Carmen, is your monthly workshop a writing retreat? Getting recharged is so important!


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