With the first month of the year wrapping up, how are you feeling about your 2020 writing resolutions? Whether your answer falls under amazing or meh, the way to attain your writing goals just might be creating your own writing workshop. After all, a recent study from Ohio State University indicated that people are more likely to achieve their ambitions when they share these dreams with others they admire. Everyone from The Writer to Literary Hub has touted the classic workshop model, and it remains the predominant method of teaching writing at colleges and universities. This year, try it out for yourself: Here’s how to build your writing support system and how to keep it thriving.
Identify your objective.
Do you want to write new poems every week, revise and polish poems for publication, apply for graduate programs, or start working towards a collection? Knowing your poetic end game can help you attract like-minded writers, decide how often you’ll need to meet, and figure out how long workshop gatherings should be. Envision what you hope to gain from your writing workshop, and then put that into words.
Cast a wide, writerly net.
The most crucial part of a workshop lies in its enthusiastic participants. The people in your workshop should be willing and excited to contribute and also offer honest, detailed advice. To attract this audience, you can use social media. In addition to calls on Facebook and Twitter, you can make it targeted and specific — think of Facebook groups related to writing that you might be in and applicable Twitter hashtags. You can also make or seek out a group on sites like Meetup.
Along with reaching out on social media, think of strategic spots to place fliers. What local bookstores and coffee shops support the writing community with their programming? In order to naturally make connections in your local writing scene, consider attending reading series, slams, book signings, and similar events. In these settings, prioritize the importance of staying confident. Though imposter syndrome might sneakily tell us that others are too accomplished or cool, they might be interested — and you’ll never know unless you ask.
Lock down your location & time table.
What vibe do you want your workshop to exude? Do you want your setting to be quiet or bustling? Brightly illuminated or mood lighting? If there’s a local space you love, evaluate whether their hours will work for you. If you’ve built up a large group, consider calling or emailing a business to ensure they can accommodate you.
Similarly, set your schedule. While it might ebb and evolve, what days and times will work best for most people? Online tools like Doodle Poll can help coordinate calendars and communication.
Set realistic standards for success.
In college, my poetry professors always started a workshop by having us collaboratively set our own guidelines. We determined how many pieces of work we would discuss each week, how long we would spend on each poem, and talked about how to balance positive feedback and critique. Of course, there are infinite variables — so decide which ones are essential. This can be a powerful way for writers to assert autonomy over their creative process, as well as a bonding tactic for your group.
Once your workshop is flourishing, think about where it could go next. Could you invite visiting writers, challenge each other to write in different formal constraints, or plan a submission party for sending work to magazines and contests? Remember not to limit yourself or the team that’s rooting for you.
In the meantime, keep leaning on your virtual writing workshop, Read Poetry, for prompts, how-to’s, and inspiration. Happy writing!