Writer Bootcamp


[Just the fact that it took me about 5 min. to come up with that sad title means my brain is woefully out of shape.]

I could sit here and watch Alyss the Cat torture Annie the Dog all day but it wouldn’t do my writing any good.  In spite of blogging all summer, my writing muscles feel all mushy and slack much like other parts of my body.  Blogging is like a fun free-form warm up; it is not the highly disciplined training that makes a marathoner.

Case in point:  I recently submitted a short story to my writing coach and although the edit wasn’t too cruel, there was a huge problem.  I didn’t understand her comments.  No, she didn’t respond in Greek.  It’s me.  I’ve gone soft in the head.  I sat there, staring at the page and did not comprehend any of it.  Folks, this is bad.

When my writing muscles were lean and firm, I was more in tune, my ear was…keener. Even if one of my stories missed the mark, I could usually fix it easily because I knew, somehow.  It’s like singing a note that’s slightly flat.  You know it’s off – you know it’s flat – you know how to raise it just enough.  Bottom line:  I am out of shape.  My senses are dull.  So, it’s time for the wee banshee to engage in a  form of torture known as a writer’s workshop. (Should my lovely professor be reading this, I say “torture” as a term of endearment.  Really.)

Writing workshops (for me anyway) are online classes where a small group of writers submit pieces not only to the professor but to each other.  The more eyes on a piece the better – everybody reads differently, bringing their own experiences to a piece and thus the writer gets a wide variety of feedback.  Often a piece would elicit the same responses from everyone:  “Wow.  This piece sings!”  Or, one person would think it was a sublime piece of writing while another might think it downright subterranean.

Along with what I call “major” homework, the teacher also assigned weekly “exercises.”  Always my favourites, these were the wee drills that warmed me up, got my blood going, and helped me deliver on the bigger assignments.  The exercises were fun.  “Describe your car being as specific as possible without using any car terminology.”  So, I described my 2007 VW Golf as a “snack sized container of freedom.”  In another exercise, we had to imitate other author’s voices.  I remember feeling pretty good about my Hemingway but my Flannery O’Connor was cringe-worthy.  I wasn’t always good at the exercises but they were entertaining.

After doing these kinds of “warm-ups,” writing a 15 page essay didn’t seem so daunting, although right now, it would probably kill me.  I need to get back into training.  Re-learn how to “show, don’t tell.”  Keep my tenses straight.  Write tight.  Dive deep and write strong prose.  I can do it – I’ve done it before.  Just not with sluggish mind and mushy muscles.

And so, if you don’t see Wee Banshee for a bit, I’m bogged down with homework, trying to get myself back into shape again.


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