Monthly Archives: March 2014

Writing Groups and Classes

If you are trying to decide between joining a writing group or registering for a class, ask yourself – “What am I looking to get out of this?” Is it a deadline? Feedback? A chance to improve my writing? A chance to kill writer’s block? A chance to meet other writers? Take a look at both options to see which fulfills your needs.

Writing GROUPS

In writing groups work is generally read out loud by the author with members being allowed to comment. If you’re in a good group this can be handy. However, there are some writers who are not skilled at giving constructive criticism. They may focus on their own personal tastes rather than look at your work objectively. Good feedback should include questions, objective statements and, most importantly, it should encourage you to continue to move forward with your work. (Something to consider when you are the one giving feedback)

When researching groups look at how long they have been together. Do they require a submission before acceptance? How often do they meet? What experience does the leader have? (They don’t necessarily have to be a published author, but they should be able to keep the group on track and understand how to work with different personalities)

You may also want to ask the ratio of men to women and the ages of the participants. The more varied the group, the more diverse the opinions (which is helpful) If a group is asking you to pay ask where your money will go (A newsletter? Snacks for the meeting?) Always do your research first.

Writing CLASSES

Most if not all writing classes are taught by published writers looking to supplement their income. Prices range from the reasonable to the outrageous. Before you throw down your credit card, find out how long the course is, if they provide a syllabus, the teacher’s experience and if there are any reviews of the class.

If you decide to sign up, pay careful attention to the feedback your teacher is giving to the other students. Is it objective? Is it fair? Do you agree with it? Also ask yourself if you’re having fun! Does the work of the other writers interest you? Are you writing more? Do you look forward to going?

Writing groups and classes aren’t for everyone. If they work for you, great! If not, don’t worry. Just keep writing.

ONLINE groups and classes

I have never participated in an online group. They make me wary. Without the face to face contact people can make comments without thought to consequence. If you’re part of an online group and it works for you, fantastic. (There is something to be said for staying at home in your pajamas) but you might want to make the effort to join a group that meets in public. Not only will you gain experience reading your work out loud (a skill you will need if you publish) but you might just make some new friends, too.

Happy writing.

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On Workaholics and Success

Stress is a killer! Save yourself!

That’s the message we’ve been given as a reaction to the new breed of workaholics. Technology allows them to work from anywhere, be connected to anyone and, as a result, work all the time. We usually think of these people as business men and not artists, but they’re out there. Writers, filmmakers, people who work crazy hours not for a love of money or status, but for a love of what they do. Should they slow down? Can they slow down?

Workaholics v. The Slow and Steadies

Let’s take fantasy and sci-fi genius Joss Whedon. This guy works. A lot. And I’m glad! Otherwise we never would have had Buffy and Angel and Firefly (single tear). On the other hand, you have actor and writer Ann-Marie MacDonald who has a very short C.V but it includes Fall On Your Knees, one of my all time favourite books.

How do you define success? Quantity or quality? Can you have both?

The Balancing Act

Work-life balance!

We hear this a lot, too. Apparently we’re supposed to give equal weight to everything. Work, family, friends… But is that realistic? Maybe being off balance is okay. Maybe, as this Ted Talk suggests, sometimes your work takes priority while other times it’s family.

Do you want to write more or less? Speed up or slow down?

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Dee Tales: Teddy Bear School

76 - Teddy Bear School

Dee Tales are whimsical stories inspired by photographs taken with my i-phone. A tiny story for you, a wee sense of accomplishment for me. Enjoy.

School was hard.

Red Teddy had short arms so teacher couldn’t always see he was raising his paw. He was slow to finish tests because he had trouble holding a pencil. And memorizing ways to chase away nightmares is tough when you have a head full of cotton.

Red Teddy hoped he passed. He could use a good cuddle.

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On Creativity

75 - zig zag

We’ve been conditioned to believe that artists are born, not made. That genius musicians, writers, and painters have a god-given gift that the rest of us “normals” will never see. But what if that wasn’t true?

In his book Zig Zag, Sawyer argues that everyone could be as creative as the greatest artists and inventors if only they practiced the act of creativity. He argues that productivity comes first.

“No matter what kind of creativity I studied, the process was the same. Creativity did not descend like a bolt of lightning that lit up the world in a single, brilliant flash. It came in tiny steps, bits of insight, and incremental changes. Zigs and zags.” – Keith Sawyer

This is not such a wild idea. Why else would there be so many writing prompts, warm-ups and stream of consciousness exercises out there? They exist to get you started. They exist because ideas take time. And all of those geniuses, for every good idea, hundreds of theirs were awful.

A while ago I did an experiment. I attempted to come up for an idea for a novel once a day for thirty days. A lot of them were bad… but a few were pretty good. I had to go through the bad ones to get to the good ones. Productivity first.

I’ve been holding on to those ideas, debating which one to choose. Which one to explore. But who says I have to choose just one?

They are constantly generating ideas, and then constantly examining them. In a given month, they might start fresh ten times, while more mediocre minds stick like glue to their very first idea, afraid that it’s so fragile it will crumple under criticism… Real creativity is resilient. – Keith Sawyer

Never mind left brain v. right brain. Never mind inspiration. Never mind the muse. Sit down and write.

Then write some more.

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