Saturday's Writers' Workshop with Dean Nelson of PLNU was simply incredible. Splendid. Deeply satisfying and quite encouraging. I took twelve pages of notes, not counting two pages of original writing. I also wrote an extensive synopsis of the workshop on our writing group's blog which you can read by clicking here: MECAC Writers' Workshop.
My hope and prayer is that our monthly group will grow to a solid half dozen or so dedicated writers (more would be terrific!) who will help each other improve our work. Lately it's just been two to three of us, and I would love the group to double at least. Building trust with one another is key so that everyone can feel safe sharing his or her work and offer helpful comments to other writers as well.
Near the end of the workshop, Dean mentioned something in passing that made me think deeply. He stressed the difference between people who claim, "I want to be a writer" and those who say, "I want to write." The wording may be close enough that you or I may not see a marked difference, but Dean does. Those who desire to be writers tend to be entranced with the idea of writing and possess a romanticized, idealized view of the writer's life. Dean doesn't take these "writers" seriously. But those who "want to write" are a different story. They have an inner compulsion to put words to paper or computer screen because writing is something they'd be doing whether or not they are ever published or successful. Something within these writers has to be expressed in written form, and they're not afraid of hard work and rejection slips.
I think I can safely say that I have been in the former group of "wanting to be a writer" for most of my life. But within the last two to three years since Kitty and Judith encouraged me to pick up my pen again and I also started blogging (August of '06), I've slowly crossed the line into the latter, serious category of "wanting to write." Actually, I would phrase it more strongly as needing to write. Once I get started on a blog post or on a poem, I completely lose track of time as I attempt to shape words and phrases to fit the idea or image in my mind. Writing, as Dean told us and as I tell my writing students often, is hard work. It takes someone dedicated to spending countless hours in front of a keyboard or with a pen in hand, pursuing this dance between thought and written expression. It's a challenge that I accept -- even if I am never published again. For the "real" writer, it's all about the process. Yes, being published is the goal and it's absolutely wonderful when it happens, but the process of writing, the lows and highs inherent in artistic expression, has to be what keeps us at our keyboards far more strongly than the desire of being published.
And Saturday's workshop showed me that I am indeed truly one who needs to write. I know that a lot of what I am writing will be crap. But some of it may rise above crap and will contain some slight insight in it that needs to be cajoled into poetry or prose. And I'm willing to keep persevering simply because I love writing more than I hate it.
So thanks, Dean for a tremendously helpful workshop and for encouraging me in recognizing where I am in the writerly process. We hope to plan another writing workshop in the early fall with MECAC, and I hope to learn even more then as well.