Friday, April 26, 2019

Life Writing Workshop

I took myself off to a writing workshop a few weeks ago, hosted by Graeme Gibson. (I would like to add that most quotes and advice come straight from his course pages.)

We are so fortunate to have these sessions made available for free in our local library. I am glad I went to support the chance for further workshops. I'd like to say there were a variety of ages there, but I can say without a doubt I was the youngest amongst my grey haired companions.

We were reminded at the start this was a workshop, we would be doing actual writing and sharing. I knew this, but I guess I hadn't thought about it too much before he actually said it. Thank goodness I took a notebook and pen! I was a little scared about writing real life feelings and memories and sharing them with 13 other people I hardly knew. Which seems totally ludicrous now because HELLO BLOG! Listening to others share, it truly reminded me that no matter what you circumstances, everyone has a story to share. Some more fabulous than others, but no less unique.

I thought I'd share with you what I learnt and wrote, because it's a waste to let the words languish in the notebook forever. But who knows one day I may just write a book!

Our first exercise was to just write, no being concerned about spelling, grammar or logic. It is more quantity, than quality.

Write in reckless fever. Rewrite in a cardigan. - DBC Pierre

The tip he gave us was to have a piece of paper and cover up the previous line of writing so you can't go back and correct. To let the story come out like a vomit, no holds barred. Graeme referred to the above quote. It reminded me of one I had heard before, "Write drunk, edit sober". Generally we had 7- 9 minutes to do each exercise.

The next exercise was to write a few lines or a paragraph that would be the opening of the story. This would be a 'hook' to get the reader to keep reading. This would be quality, rather than quantity.

"I arrived in Alice at five a.m. with a dog, six dollars and a small suitcase full of inappropriate clothes." - Robyn Davidson, Tracks

Our third task was to, as said by writer E. M. Forster, "Show, don't tell". This was to not just tell a story, but to write as you are setting a scene, so the reader can feel the story, like they were there. Showing requires more words than telling, and a balance must be found.

"A good writer describes everything. A great writer only describes what is necessary." - Bruce Chatwin

Graeme touched on  descriptive detail:
  • use adjectives sparingly
  • make the verb do the work
  • question the adverb

Sensory language gives depth, and brings the reader to experience the world that is being written about. Sight, sound and smell are universal, whereas taste and touch and unique to each individual.

Narrative is the fact telling of a story. The plot, using all of the above techniques is story telling.

I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and would absolutely do another one. I did actually share the last task we had to do, which was to write a descriptive piece about the workshop. I didn't hang around for the last 10 minutes to listen to an feedback on my writing because I had to rush off for school up. Next time I might get the girls to walk to the library after school so I don't miss out on anything. They've walked home from school on their own a few times this year, which is about the same distance, which is a good start.

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  1. Oh my gosh, I need this workshop in my life! Thank you so much for sharing! I am running out to work in a moment, but I will be revisiting this post later and rereading more carefully!


  2. This sounds like such a great workshop! Great to get the creative juices flowing :)

  3. Sounds like a very good and practical workshop.


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