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What I Learned this Weekend at AWW 2017

This past weekend I attended the Antioch Writers’ Workshop (AWW) 2017 Saturday seminar, as well as the keynote and craft class with Hugo Award winner John Scalzi. My head just about popped with all of the knowledge poured into it by some fantastic speakers. Creative WritingI can’t imagine what it would be like to attend the full week, but I hope to find out one of these years.

After taking some time to mentally digest the new knowledge, I wanted to share with you three things I took away from the weekend. There were far more than three things I learned, but these are the ones that stood out.

1) Find a process that works for you.

Sometimes I worry so much about doing things the “right way” that I get discouraged and don’t move forward. This is a useless approach to getting anything done. Even though I know better, I still get caught up in this trap. Silly. 

Who am I?

No, this isn’t a post about an existential crisis or Les Miserables. It’s about who I am as a writer.

I recently attended the Antioch Writers’ Workshop Spring Seminar and two recurring themes throughout the day were “be a good literary citizen” and “figure out who you are as a writer.”

Being a good literary citizen includes doing things like spreading the word about books you are reading, writing online reviews of books, helping other writers with advice and encouragement, etc. Basically, be a good person as a writer. In the interest of being a good literary citizen, I have tried to promote other books and writers on Twitter more. I realized I have been a complete slacker about writing reviews, so I plan to review books I have read on Amazon, Goodreads, and on my blog. I have also had the chance to write author profiles for LiteraryMama.com, which has been a lot of fun.

So being a good literary citizen was the easy theme of the day to deal with. The more difficult one was figuring out I am as a writer.

Some of the people there talked about how they spend a few hours in the morning writing, or they get up at 4:30 a.m. to have some quiet time to write. I have a full-time job outside the home, so I can’t devote large chunks of the day to writing. As for the early morning, I’m pretty sure me being awake at 4:30 a.m. on a regular basis is one of the signs of the apocalypse. I also have a family and I make jewelry, and I’m not willing to give up time for either. Let me be clear and note I am not saying that people who write give up time with their families. I admire those who do get up at crazy early hours just so they can still have time with their families. My unwillingness to be up before the buttcrack of dawn just to write left me questioning my commitment and wondering if I really am cut out to be a writer. It bothered me enough that I was having a hard time sitting down to write a post about the seminar, even though I really enjoyed it.

Okay, maybe this post is a little bit about an existential crisis as a writer.

Lack of Conflict

I don’t like conflict.Clashing hands of fire and water

At all.

And I recently realized it shows in my writing. But not in a good way.

I have been going through the story I wrote for NaNoWriMo last year and noticed a couple of the characters getting along way too well in parts of the story where one of them should have been super pissed off at the other. It nagged at the back of my head a little bit when I was writing it, but I didn’t fully see it until reading through the whole story again. (This is why we edit, right?)

This also struck me as a bit funny because one of my favorite writing moments from last year involved the first big argument between these same characters. I was happily typing along letting the story unfold as my fingers hit the keys when I thought, “These people have been getting along really well. Almost too well.” And within a few sentences one of the characters started a rant with “Oh, f**k off!” I paused for a second and thought, “Okay. I guess they are going to fight now.” I think I actually giggled because it was such a cool feeling to have the story just flowing onto the screen like that. Then I quickly went back into the rant and finished the scene.