“Workshop” is one of those words that is meant to be a noun and only a noun. (“Task” is another.) I heard a writer use it as a verb – to workshop -- and say that she hated it, but it was efficient, and we all knew what she meant. When one reads ones writing in a class and takes notes from ones classmates, for example, one could be said to be “workshopping” the manuscript. (And that –ing ending, I believe, is called a gerund.)
In other words, I have attended a writers’ workshop.
I was barely legit.
I was frankly filling in for a serious writer whose schedule changed at the last minute. He was supposed to read an excerpt and be interviewed by another writer/editor. I was available, like so many Regis Philbins, and Tony Randalls before him. So I traveled out of town to the workshop.
I arrived just in time for my program to begin, having prepped with one brief rosé in the village before hitting campus with an old friend.
It was a little abrupt, even for me. With one or two exceptions, I had no idea who was in the room. Were they students? Locals? Hobbyists? Published writers? Some seemed eager to be there; others were less intent, though nobody walked out.
Reader, I became a total ham: I read, I keened, I bellowed, and I mimicked. Sometimes I really am annoyingly animated. But then, during the conversational part of the evening, the talk turned – as it often does – to the economics of being a writer, one of my least favorite topics.
We are overwhelmed by too much content everywhere we go. It finds us: online of course, in print, on airplanes, at some gas stations, in the elevators of office highrises, within taxicabs, and now on wristwatches. Soon, our Nicorette patches will deliver the news, weather, and celebrity tidbits.
With so many outlets it is harder to be remunerated for what we write, even if what we write has literary or merit or originality. (Scrapbook that!) Having to perform as ones own agent is a graceless part of the work, which requires a different set of skills from being alone with ones ideas and words.
In a class I attended today, we heard that we must have passion, (check), be flexible enough to trash the first belabored 80 pages (check – without enthusiasm), read the masters (check), and persevere (check).
But sitting in an auditorium filled with writers and writers-in-wanting, I was moved by the wanting, moved by how 40 brains will take in the same prompt for an in-class assignment and come out with 40 extraordinarily different cakes. We all had eggs and flour and then we diverged in surprising ways.
I remembered how much I loved school. Even just two hours of it.