Whether you’re new to writing or a veteran in the field, creative writing workshops are an invaluable tool for those looking to build their writing skills. It’s understandable if you are nervous to share your writing in a workshop environment, but it’s important to remember that most writers—even the experienced ones—are just as nervous as you. The creative writing workshop is meant for objective criticism, peer-to-peer support, and testing your audience. So, it’s good to be open-minded and somewhat vulnerable when entering a writing workshop.
Here are 7 unexpected things you’ll learn by participating in creative writing workshops.
1. Writing Workshop Can Boost Your Confidence
While participating in a creative writing workshop may seem daunting, it’s the perfect environment to build confidence as a writer. It’s good to receive positive feedback from friends and family, but true, honest criticism is the only way to gain confidence. For one, it’s the only kind of criticism that will improve your skills which, in turn, builds confidence. But it’s also important to know that honest criticism isn’t anything to be afraid of—and receiving it often is the only way to learn how to receive it properly.
2. You’ll Overcome Writer’s Block
Something my creative writing teacher said in high school was “writer’s block does not exist.” That can be argued based on your definition, but the point is that writer’s block is more of a state of mind. Even if you feel you have nothing to share, attending a creative writing workshop and reading the work of your contemporaries is a great tool for generating inspiration. Whether you feel stuck within your genre, or are looking to experiment with new structures, there’s certainly someone at the workshop who can offer advice. Ask your writing peers questions on craft, career advice, and more! You’ll surely make some great new friends!
3. Workshop Is A Networking Opportunity
Writing workshops are exceptional networking opportunities for those in the literary field. They foster a communal atmosphere where writers, editors, publishers, and enthusiasts converge to discuss and learn about the craft. Participants often collaborate, critique, and exchange ideas, leading to connections that can provide mutual support, guidance, and sometimes, professional opportunities. Such events not only broaden one’s writing skills but also extend their professional network, paving the way for future collaborations, partnerships, and career growth.
Building relationships with fellow writers can lead to collaboration on future projects, sharing of resources, and even lifelong friendships. Since writing professors are often the organizers of writing workshops, it makes for the perfect chance to develop a strong professional relationship with them so that you can leverage their insight and connections throughout your writing career.
4. You’ll Foster Your Creative Expression
If you’ve seldom shared your writing with others, then you might still be holding back on expressing the full breadth of your ideas out of fear. As writings, we all fully understand how vulnerable and intimidating it is to share our truest work with others. Writing workshop is your opportunity to do just that in a safe, supportive, and creative environment.
Creative writing workshops can play a pivotal role in allowing writers to embrace and foster their most sincere and vulnerable ideas. These workshops create a nurturing and supportive environment that encourages risk-taking in writing, facilitating exploration of personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings often kept hidden. Constructive feedback from fellow writers can help refine these raw, intimate ideas into compelling narratives, while also affirming their value and authenticity. Over time, such workshops can foster a writer’s confidence and ability to delve into their innermost corners and translate that vulnerability into resonant, powerful writing.
5. Workshop Can Diversify Your Exposure
Reading for pleasure is an important part of being a writer, but sometimes we forget to challenge our scope of influence. Attending a writing workshop exposes you to a wide range of styles, voices, and genres, enriching your understanding of language and its infinite possibilities. By dissecting how accomplished writers craft their sentences, develop characters, or build their narratives, you can glean valuable lessons to enhance your writing.
Writing workshops are a gateway to a plethora of writing styles, genres, and techniques that one might otherwise miss. They often encompass a broad range of topics, from traditional forms of fiction and poetry to experimental genres, speculative fiction, and cross-genre writing. Hearing from diverse voices in these workshops, each with their unique perspectives and approaches, broadens your literary horizon and stimulates creative thinking. Exposure to such a wealth of information can spark inspiration, drive you to venture outside your comfort zone, and experiment with unfamiliar writing styles, ultimately enriching your own craft.
6. Writing Workshop Boosts Emotional Intelligence
Creative writing workshops can significantly boost emotional intelligence by fostering self-awareness, empathy, and interpersonal skills. Workshops provide an outlet for self-reflection and emotional expression, allowing you and others to process and cope with personal experiences. While the process of writing itself can be very cathartic, having the validation of a localized audience can be an unexpected boon.
As a writer myself, I often have trouble writing about my own experiences and emotions. But in my junior year of college, a professor forced us to write poetry about something very traumatic in our lives. I was terrified to share my poem when it came time, but was ultimately met with warmth, understanding, and constructive critical analysis. A good creative writing workshop should be a safe space, and an environment to share your emotions and experiences without fear.
Workshops require writers to tap into and articulate their own emotions, thereby promoting a deeper understanding of self. Similarly, when critiquing others’ work or crafting characters with different perspectives, writers develop empathy, understanding, and respect for diverse experiences and emotions. This reciprocal sharing and understanding of emotions, alongside the collaborative nature of workshops, also helps to enhance social skills, making these workshops a powerful tool for enhancing emotional intelligence.
7. You’ll Improve Your Communication Skills
By participating in a creative writing workshop, you have the responsibility of carefully and tactfully communicating feedback to peers in a respectful, thoughtful manner that is beneficial to them as writers. A good workshop will help you learn to articulate your thoughts and ideas clearly, confidently, and constructively. These skills are valuable in various aspects of life, including personal relationships and professional settings.
It’s important to understand the difference between stating your opinion and carefully analyzing a piece without hurting someone’s feelings. When giving constructive feedback in a writing workshop, it’s essential to balance highlighting the strengths of the piece with suggestions for improvement, providing specific examples for both. Make sure to frame your feedback in a supportive and respectful manner, focusing on the work rather than the writer, and emphasize that your goal is to assist the writer in enhancing their piece, not to undermine their creativity or effort.
A BFA Creative Writing student at UNCW, Conner DiGiacomo is an author known for short stories and poetry in the realm of magical realism. He has won awards for his poetry since high school, written multiple published investigative articles, and is an active participant in the creative community at large. If you’re in Wilmington, you can find Conner volunteering at WHQR Public Radio, reading at open mics, and perusing local record stores.