“‘The Promise of Water’ is as graceful as it is powerful —
a bracing and heart-breaking plunge into the mystery of identity, the boundlessness of love.”
Richard Adams Carey, author of IN THE EVIL DAY, THE PHILOSOPHER FISH, and AGAINST THE TIDE

It’s the writing that teaches us

Somewhere in a place between a daydream and another life, I am writing from a comfortable chair in a modest cabin facing a lake (think Thoreau’s Walden Pond or even Fonda’s Golden Pond – you get the idea). Everything around me is quiet save the breeze murmuring through the trees and the birds whose every chirrup and whistle inspires my next line.

It is the perfect writing realm except for one thing: it is not a sustainable model for the typical modern writer. I am not Thoreau nor am I independently wealthy. I am a full-time working mother and an avid volunteer who happens to love the craft of writing. I have to (get to) write every day, and I can’t jet off to New England every time I need inspiration (i.e. every day). The writing  has to happen right now, right here, wherever that may be. Standing up in the kitchen. The car (when someone else is driving). The bathroom floor during my son’s tub time. Anywhere that can temporarily serve as a desk. I am sure you can relate.

Chirrups and whistles? Not so much. Try my three-year-old shrieking in frustration because his older sister gave him one too many kisses on the cheek. The other noise I hear is not a gentle rain on the roof of my quaint cabin. It’s the toilet running because neither my husband nor I have time to replace the doohickey inside the tank. And my next line? Like a matching sock, sometimes it’s difficult to find.

As nice as the cabin and the lake sound, there is a more realistic source of inspiration all around us, no matter where you live. What can sustain writers in the bustling day to day is this: community around the craft. I find my writing community at work and within my MFA alumni cohort. And whether for a single session or for an entire semester, a community is also what I hope to create through my writing workshops as well. Sure, genres, elements, techniques can be customized for every workshop depending on goals and interests. But what makes workshopping a particularly effective form of practice? The coming together to have a conversation about the craft.

That’s even better than birds serenading you on to the next chapter — because writing is meant to be shared.

Workshops give us an opportunity to set aside time to focus on improving our craft, and we need that if we expect to be better all the time. Like Asimov said, “It’s the writing that teaches us.” I think he was speaking about the practice of writing as well as time spent reading and studying the work of those who do it well. Imagine, then, in small-group settings what we writers can learn from each other.

 

4 Comments

  1. I can’t wait to read your novel…and I would like to take a copy writing workshop (for adults) from you when you get started in that adventure. How about a novel writing workshop, too, while you’re at it. Kevin tells me you are good : )

    I have taken several novel writing workshops online and at GTCC, but in person would be nice. I like the feedback…and encouragement.

    • How lovely to hear from you, Barbara! Thanks so much for expressing interest in my novel. I’d love to learn more about your writing as well. As far as copywriting, let me know what aspect interests you the most. Do you have colleagues or friends who would like to form a small group for a workshop some time – copywriting or novel writing? At any rate, meeting at Scuppernong for coffee would be fun, too. 🙂 Thank you again for commenting. Hope to meet you soon. Happy writing!

      • No, I don’t have know anyone else who wants to write or do copywriting (except Kevin : ) I plan to retire in the next year and thought it would be good to get back to writing. I put my book down for the past 7 years and someone else ( George Clooney) did the story instead. It was of Rose Valland, the hero in Paris who helped save the art stolen by the Nazis in Paris during World War II. (Think “The Monument’s Men.”) I now have to think how I can use all the research I did to come up with a story that would still interest folks in that subject. Will teach me not to put off a story that intrigues me.

        • That is fascinating, Barbara. I am sorry George stole your thunder, however! How frustrating, especially considering that the topic you choose is an outstanding one and I am sure would have been very interesting to agents and publishers. Maybe you could feed off of the popularity of that movie and determine a related angle or character based on your research and work. I am sure I could learn plenty about novel writing from you! Maybe we could form an informal writing group? As far as copywriting, it would be great to meet sometime and discuss how you can develop some freelance copywriting work, if that interests you. I’ll ask Kevin to send you my email address. All the best, Andrea.

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A Crossley SpencerA. Crossley Spencer

A. Crossley Spencer is the author of The Promise of Water, a freelance writer and a teacher.

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