As soon as we sat down, the instructor handed us a stack of blank white copy paper and said, “Draw a simple jewelry design. Don’t worry about how you would actually make it, just get an idea on the page.”
Now, there was a gentleman in the class who was training to start a new career, after a back injury had stopped him from running his motorcycle repair business.
This gentleman had tattoos before goofy young liberal arts majors had tattoos. He was gruff, he rode motorcycles, and he had perfected an intimidating stare.
He was, in other words, the perfect image of the bad biker boy. In fact, his overall demeanor suggested he was quite comfortable beating people up, and not 100% averse to killing them.
And in the face of that stack of blank white copy paper … he turned gray.
His bravado was gone. His forehead started to sweat. And his hands trembled as he moved to put a pencil to the page, then pulled back, then tried again.
He was frightened of that blank page. Not “worried about imposter syndrome.” Not “nervous about being judged.”
Physically, viscerally frightened.
Most of us don’t have it that bad
We might worry about our creative output, we might very well dread it and put it off, but it doesn’t make us turn gray or start to sweat.
Not usually, anyway.
But learning something new in a creative field is scary.
Because we think of our creative output as us. Our soul, our mind, our deepest human reality.
And if that us isn’t good … well, that’s not a very pleasant thing to contemplate.
Everyone and their grandmother has quoted this Ira Glass comment on how painful it can be to get good at creative work, mainly because it’s just so right on.
All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.”
-Ira Glass, “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners …”
There’s where we are today. There’s where we would like our creative work to be at some point.
And then there’s a great big awkward gap in the middle.
There’s a school of thought that says that if negative feedback will make you quit writing (or dancing, or music, or acting), you should stop, because you don’t want it badly enough.
As you might imagine, I think this school of thought is complete baloney.
The folks with rhinoceros-thick hides aren’t necessarily the ones who would produce the most interesting work.
I think a lot of beautiful work has been stunted and has died an early death because the artist didn’t have a rhinoceros-thick hide. And I think that’s a damned shame.
Yes, I am going to be teaching this writing workshop!
For those of you who wondered if I was still going to teach a creative writing workshop for content creators, the answer is emphatically Yes. I had a course to ship over at Copyblogger, and now that’s happy and humming and I have time for this heart project. 🙂
(It turns out that I am a person who really needs to think about one major thing at a time.)
My intention with this workshop is to make a safe space for getting better.
To teach the tools and practices that let you experiment and grow as a writer, without feeling like a giant pile of suck.
To provide a 100% boot-in-the-ass-free zone. (Gentle nudges may happen, depending on whether you feel they’re what you need right now.)
A place for silliness and creativity and doodling all over your blank page until it’s not so scary any more.
A place where the rhinos love and support us.
Oh, and since we’re hanging out, we’ll talk about technical stuff like the mechanics of storytelling, writer’s voice, polishing and perfecting, and how to write better dialogue. The kind of stuff that writers like to talk about.
The primary audience will be folks who are writing content: blog posts, podcasts, video scripts, maybe even some infographics. At Copyblogger, I’ve received a lot of questions from writers who want to improve the artistic and creative side of their work. That’s what this workshop will be about.
If you’re a fiction writer or poet, you’ll probably still find useful stuff. Language is language, and creativity is creativity. Just realize the workshop won’t be tailored to the kind of work you write.
It’s going to be messy
I hereby guarantee that this first version of the workshop will be a bit of a glorious mess.
Not because I don’t care about it (I do). But because this is a side project that doesn’t benefit from my wonderful, ultra-efficient team at Copyblogger.
This is me and a few friends putting on a show in the old barn. 🙂 We’re going to roll up our sleeves and get real about our writing. I truly think it’s going to be transformative, but there won’t be a lot of bells and whistles.
If I polish it up later into something fancier (that is my plan), I’m happy to let anyone who joins the first class get the fancy future versions for free. That just seems fair.
My timeline right now is early May, so if it sounds like something you’d be interested in, plunk your email address into the handy form below, and I’ll let you know when we’re ready for you!
By the way, I’m in the middle of switching email providers, so if you’re getting this post by email, you might see strange things. I am profoundly grateful for your patience and kindness. 🙂
Creative Commons image from Pixabay