“Pari, in a future blog post, could you go through in a little detail how you happened to pick this particular workshop. Workshops aren’t cheap and your insights on separating the good from the bad would be really useful.” Chris Hamilton
Thanks for the idea, Chris. I’ve been thinking about it ever since my last post. Here are a few questions that should help you in the decision-making process. Ask them yourself when you’re looking at workshops.
What am I looking for?
Bingo. This is the biggie. Sure it’s obvious; it’s also neglected. Many writers have a weird “Do Me” attitude. These people abdicate responsibility for their learning at the same time they’re spending the money and time to do it.
Ask yourself: Am I interested in general craft, dialog, networking (that might spur you to take a course/workshop from a “name” writer), plot structure, novel writing, bringing more emotion into my writing, or the business of writing?
Without a clear idea of what you hope to take away from the class, you can’t possibly narrow the field.
Do I really want to be in a student mindset?
Be honest. Do you really want to be a learner or do you think you know it all already?
Will you embrace comments, feedback and information on assignments and in lectures or will you spend your hard-earned money to fight everything and then bitch about the class afterward?
Related to this is the time factor: are you ready to jump in and attend the entire class, do all the exercises and other assignments, conduct the required research . . . or will you be pissed at the demands on your already busy schedule?
Whom do I respect?
This consideration is two fold.
- Whom do I respect enough to ask for candid recommendations about the workshop/class?
Pick carefully. If possible, you want people that know your writing. I’ve had acquaintances tell me NOT to take a class because they believed I didn’t need it. I trusted them. Before I ever considered the Master Class, I asked around, talked to friends who’d gone through it. Believe me, I really thought I knew what I was getting into <g>.
- Do I respect the instructors?
If you don’t know them already, contact them. Get to know them — at least a little — through emails and, if appropriate, conversations. Please . . . If you don’t feel like you can respect them, for heaven’s sake DON’T give them your time and money because you somehow feel they’d “be good for you.” Sheesh. I know people who’ve done this. Argh!
This also gets into the whole concern about teachers or classes compromising your “voice.” It’s a crucial consideration.
When I first started writing, I was very open and willing to take classes from all kinds of people. Luckily I didn’t have a lot of money or I probably would’ve ruined my writing for life.
Let’s face it. There are a lot of instructors out there that teach more from ego than from anything else.
The first part of the respect question has to do with “objective” input. That’s why you have to respect the sources.
The second part of the question has to do with your own gut. Pay attention to it! If something stinks like durian fruit, don’t just through your sweet-smelling time and money at it and expect it turn into a fresh gardenia.
How much money do I have to do this?
The master class cost a lot, but for what I wanted it was a bigger bargain than going to the myriad classes I’d need to attend to get half of the information.
So . . . some things aren’t quite so obvious after all.
What kind of a commitment am I – and my family – willing to make?
Time. Money. Emotion. Absence from home. Gas expenses. Hotel costs. Emotional focus.
There are classes that require a day, a few hours/week, weeks, months.
What is your learning style?
Do you want an immersion experience or a tidbit here and there?
Will this class impact your family, day job, other activities? Is that all right?
I can tell you that if you attend a class that takes you from home for an extended time – that requires sacrifices made on your behalf — you’re going to get push-back when you return. Be ready for it.
And THINK ABOUT IT.
Don’t skimp on this step because you intuitively feel everything is going to be copacetic.
I did ask myself these questions before committing to the Master Class. I hadn’t been to a writing or craft or business workshop in years and years – except as an instructor. For me, the worries were time, money and my voice as a writer. I asked around and found writers/people I admire with all of my heart. And then asked them what they thought.
I thought I knew what I was getting into and it was far different than anyone could have ever told me; no one can totally predict how another will respond. Still, the Master Class was perfect for me and my requirements. I’m a better writer and business person as a result and know that this is only the beginning of the effects of those two incredible weeks.
But if many of my friends asked me if they should attend it, I’m not sure I’d say “yes.” It would depend tremendously on the person asking, on that person’s current career, and most definitely on what I knew about her or his homelife. (Because push-back can be a bitch; believe me.)
So, Chris, I hope this helped.
Everyone else: I hope it helps you too!
Questions for today’s discussion:
- Did I miss anything?
- If you’ve attended a professional workshop – writing or in another field – what questions did you ask yourself before picking it?