Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Beginning Writer Workshop

I'm trying out the free-lance writing life in Raleigh while bartending on the side. Ends don't quite meet, but I feel like I'm actually living my dream for the first time. It's a great feeling, even as I put in twelve-and-fourteen hour days at my self-imposed "office."

There's a drawback to "living the dream," however. After many years of trying to convince my parents that writing is what I'm meant to do, I've had accept that they don't quite understand. I'm sure it's a common problem though. For a beginning writer - as for the beginning artist in any field - it's hard convincing your parents that starving is the right thing to do. Starting this website, to my practical mother, would be an even more foolhardy endeavor. I'm attempting to teach writing while hardly established myself. I'm applying to MFA programs, but I don't have one under my belt just yet. From the perspective of the mother who expected her son to excel in engineering, I'm throwing away both time and talent to a lost cause.

Why, then, do I write? Why endure the questions? Why not give in and find something lucrative? I've always been decent at math, and chemistry never was very hard for me (at least not until I took engineering classes - that was fun...). Why should someone who could make a living in another field want to be a writer?

The simple answer is that I can't not write. When the chemistry became to hard, I used the structures to describe my science fictional space alloy. When the differential equations were incomprehensible, I wove the squiggles into the setting of a new story. When my own life stopped making sense, I wrote out what I could. It's become an unbreakable habit - incestuous, almost. When I get tired of working on whichever novel is in progress, I'll take a break by writing a short story. Sometimes I have to pry myself away from the keyboard just to make sure I get my requisite hour of air and sunlight. Somedays I don't make it outside before dark.

Naturally, I want to share this unusual passion for words on a screen - I'm launching an online creative writing workshop. The focus will be on helping beginning writers learn the fundamentals of fiction writing while building the confidence to really experiment with their work. It feels ironic, almost. I'm barely published - my first story will see print later this year. My other stories are still in the submission stages. My first half-decent novel needs a cover-letter before so I can hunt for an agent. And yet I want to teach others.

Like any writer, I know the milestones in my work. I have a feeling of when and why I learned certain lessons at certain times. And I've made some major breakthroughs recently - the writing is beginning to "click" like it never did before.

My "sudden" progress is a combination of thousands of hours logged at the keyboard and time spent in some excellent workshops. I've learned valuable lessons from other writers and begun applying these lessons to my work. These are lessons in writing that I can pass on directly. Just as importantly, though, I've taken a few workshops that didn't help me as much. I've met writers who provided bad advice. And I can apply the lessons from these less-than-helpful seminars to provide lessons that are better structured and feedback that is targeted to the differing needs of each writer.

I have two goals in these workshops. My primary goal is to lead writing exercises that will help writers see stories from the inside out. This involves critiquing the work of others, it involves writing stories to specific prompts, it involves viewing your own writing in new ways. My second goal in is to illustrate the key guidelines for teaching creative writing. I believe that anyone who can write well can teach, but teaching creative writing is itself an art. It is a complicated process that involves both an understanding of the art and a connection with the artist. Many of the best writers and teachers, unfortunately, are not both.

I believe that much of the problem is an issue of focus – the best writers often never teach until after they’ve become successful authorities in their field, and then they have no one above them to guide them in how to run a workshop. The curriculum I'm assembling now is designed to overcome this. Starting young, I believe that beginning writers can quickly grasp the essential rules of teaching craft. By mastering these rules, a writer becomes both better with words and develops an affinity for helping other writers. And it is this bond - the ability to see and understand a human being through the words on the page - that defines a true writer.

1-2-Writing Workshops Online
About Ryan Edel

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I have helped out a few begging authors by getting them on the web.

I helped Aretha Forrest make her website:

Also Richard Marsden for his book and website about divorce law for men:

Let me know if I can help you,