Hone Your Craft

Published March 30, 2014 by ellarite

So there I was, bopping down the path that leads to my writing career.  I’d created my writing area and carved out a fraction of time dedicated to creating stories. Out of nowhere, my Type-A personality marched from behind a tree and blocked my path.

Dressed like an efficiency executive in a grey pin-striped pant suit, with white shirt, red ankle boots and tie.  She held pages of my story in her manicured fingers, quirked her strawberry-colored lips and said, “You can do better.”  Then BAM…

…a crossroad appeared on the path

Did I mention that my Type-A Muse is a hussy?  Sure, she gets stuff done, but sometimes I yearn to smack her.  But she had a point.  I needed to do better, but which path to choose?

A wooden pole erected in the middle of my crossroads, held three directional planks that corresponded to a path:

1.  Self-help,  2. MFA Program,  3. Writers’ Workshop.

PATH #1:  Self-help:

Obtain information from the library, bookstores and websites.  Find what successful writers did and apply to my work. As I examined the road, my muse went into action.

  • She marched down the path with her shoulders back and head held high.  She’d enter the various libraries, bookstores or cyber sites that appeared on either side of the path. At 10 paces, she lost her boots.  She reached twenty paces on her knees with a big head, slumped shoulders and a track suit.  At 30 paces, my living room couch appeared in the middle of the path.  My muse threw her half-naked body across the overstuffed cushions, summoned a pint of chunky monkey ice cream and a television remote control and just sat, ate and stared.  I cleared my throat to remind her that I was watching.  She gave me the finger.

PATH #2: College:   

Return to college for a MFA degree.  An advanced degree could hone my skills with the added benefit of increasing my opportunities in the labor market if my writing career didn’t pan out.   My muse appeared at my side and I directed her down this secondary path.

  • She hit this path at a dead sprint.  At 40 paces, a chalkboard appeared next to the path and she began to write.  Students gathered at her feet taking notes.  Suddenly, a diner appeared opposite her chalkboard and she jumped over her students, transformed into a middle-aged waitress and began taking dinner orders.  She bounced back and forth from diner to school until I said, “Hey, what about my writing.”  She laughed and pointed to the chalkboard. In big red block letters, someone had written “YOU OWE $70,000.00 IN STUDENT LOANS”. Okay, I was NOT going down that road.

PATH #3:   Writing Workshop:

Writing classes geared to help aspiring writers. I could attend courses proctored by local writers within the community.  Not as strict as an MFA program, it’s also not as expensive.  I raised my eyebrows and motioned my muse down this path.

  • She started slow, like crossing the threshold to a haunted house.  Within 10 paces, her hair fell loose from its’ bun, a t-shirt and blue jeans replaced the suit and a backpack hung from one shoulder.  People waving sheets of paper appeared along the roadside.  My muse swapped the pages in the backpack with these strangers and together they walked down the path. At 20 paces, my writing nook appeared and my stopped long enough to place information in the file cabinets, or type more pages. Once done, she’d stand, throw the pack over her shoulder and continue.  I soon learned the routine: learn skill, write better, share story.  Okay, message received.

I chose to hone my craft via writing workshops, specifically, the Muse Writers’ Center.  I chose courses based on my writing deficiencies.  So far, I’ve not regretted the decision. I’ve shared classes with other aspiring writers like Jenn Falls and Sylvia Liu.  I’ve learned how to build fictional worlds from Leona WisokerLydia Netzer taught me how to plot, create dilemmas and provided motivational support through her NaNoWriMo course.

Heck, I’ve started this blog based on information received from Jess Horton’s class “Blogging from the Ground Up”.

The best benefit of workshop attendance is, (old English accent):  I GOT BETTER.

I’ve learned terms like ‘filter words’ (words that separate the reader from the story like “I saw” or “he knew”) and ‘psychic distance’ (denotes how far a reader is from the character or action). I revise my stories as I learn.

It’s been almost 2 years and I’m still bouncing along the path with my muse at my side.  I make her hold the backpack.

How are you honing your craft?

Until next time,

Ella

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3 comments on “Hone Your Craft

    • Thank you, CM. I enjoy spending time with like-minded folks. Workshop provides a safe learning environment. There’s no ‘competition’, just a group of people with a goal of ‘doing better’. Added benefit: I must leave the house periodically. 🙂

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