The worst thing about writing is the doubt, the questioning, the constant struggle of wondering if there is a way to do it better. A writer working in isolation has to deal with those issues alone. That is what makes a writing workshop so wonderful. It’s an opportunity to build key skills—yes, there’s a way to do some things better, and at a workshop you can try it out. Sometimes you just need to practice, and the writing workshop offers the opportunity for targeted practice of skills you already have, but which improve with experience. It’s also an opportunity to interact and share experience, ideas and feedback with other people who face the same struggles as you do.
So what is a writing workshop? It’s a meeting of a group of eight to ten writers who share similar concerns or writing demands. The workshop is led by a facilitator who gives mini-lectures or presentations of key skills. The presentations are followed by concentrated activities to practice those skills. Often you practice skills you already have, or already think you have. But when you get into the activities, you should find that you are looking at the task in a new way, you are building your skills on a higher level, or you are honing. The key to better writing is the triad: practice, feedback, revision. A workshop gives the opportunity for all three.
After the concentrated writing exercises, the workshop group engages in discussion. Usually different members of the group will read the material produced from the activity. Then the group, led by the facilitator will break it down, discuss what works, how new skills can be applied, and focus on improving the writing even further.
Ideally in a workshop, students will work independently. They will take away skills to practice on their own. The workshop is designed to give foundational work which participants expand on. Many times skills covered in the workshop, especially if the participant isn’t entirely ready for the skill yet, will blossom later as the participant continues to work independently to practice and enhance skills.
The goal is to build targeted skills, lay a foundation for future independent growth, and foster creativity and engagement in writing. This is very different from the goals and the procedures in a classroom, and may be challenging at first. The long-term gains are well worth it, though.