Workshop 101: Just Do It
And I don’t mean in the Nike slogan sort of way. Well, maybe I do mean in the Nike slogan sort of way.
This summer has been a real learning experience for me about how and why I write. I started the summer wondering if I even liked writing. What made me choose to get an MFA in creative writing? I didn’t really have an answer beyond I wanted to improve my writing. I think I have. I may grumble about my workshop classes and my classmate’s writing from time to time, but in the end, they have helped me. Most importantly, it has opened me up to the realization that genre fiction can, and should, have literary merit. Don’t excuse your writing simply because you’re writing Science Fiction, or Fantasy, or Mystery, or Romance. Classes have given me that, and raised my own personal expectation in what I write.
It’s only been in the last week that I remembered that I chose this path because yes, I do love to write. I was the writer who was too stubborn to admit she was a writer. For kicks the other day, I pulled out my old external hard drive and looked at a story I wrote in high school. I had a centaur and a unicorn playing chess together in the final scene I wrote before I stopped the project. I don’t know how that works (for the unicorn, that is) but the image was funny, and anyone who would write such a ridiculous scene had to love writing, and the magic of putting a story into writing. So my answer was, yes, I do enjoy writing.
As long as I’m not confined to schedules, I have always loved writing. After finishing On Writing, I realized that my work ethic needed to change. Now I enjoy waking up to immediately start my word count for the day. I reset my daily writing goal from 1,000 to 2,000 words a day. I don’t always make it, but sometimes I get more. I feel motivated, like I’m actually accomplishing something. It feels good.
So what I don’t enjoy is the sporadic workshop environment. If I only have to do work three times a semester and it can happen on any week I feel like, where’s the motivation? Why care? Well, that’s the problem, I don’t. My final undergrad workshop, we were required to write 2,000 words a week to submit to our writing groups. That worked well, kept me writing, and I was motivated to do so. But now that I’m writing to finish my thesis, on my own terms, and following Stephen King’s advice to keep the door closed until the first draft is done, I’m doing better, and I’m liking it more than I have in a long time.
And until the end of the summer, that is going to be my slogan, because it’s exactly what I need to focus on: just do it. Just do it, and enjoy the ride. Worry about the rest later.