I remember wishing to have the power of osmosis back when I was in high school, and then again at the National Conference in Atlanta. There was just so much info to take in!! But not only did you have to fight the throng nicely, but you had to decide between a packed schedule (when there are so many fabulous classes at the same time) and then try to calm your brain to take in the material.
As you can tell I’m a big proponent of attending workshops. Some people go to meet friends, promo books, etc. but there’s nothing like a conference to gorge yourself on writing knowledge. They have classes on everything! And I do believe that even if you’ve heard one class on a topic, that you need to attend several, especially if it’s a problem area you can pinpoint in your writing. There really are many ways to explain something, I mean just look at how we talk about making love. Everyone doesn’t teach the same either. And one of the best ideas RWA came up with was recording the sessions. Sure it’s a pain to repeat questions and listen to the moderators repeat that same old sentence at the beginning and end of class, but it means you can hit play, pause and rewind on all the great info! (Except for the sessions that aren’t taped. A bummer, I know!) You can listen to insight from bestselling authors and professionals in the luxury of your car, while you’re walking to get inspired, or even at the office if you have a FT job!
I’m also all for learning new things. I try to keep an open mind on anything that will help with my process and allow me to create realism in the details of my story. Okay, I wouldn’t put all the details I learned about polygraphs and testing from my local RWA meeting, but I can definitely tell you I know a lot more about the subject. I don’t write historicals, but who knows when I’ll need to use some of that hard to remove clothing in a novel? It’s never a waste of time, if you’re soaking in the information to use for later. Just like you’d stockpile for a hurricane, tornado, etc. you can do the same with knowledge. You never know when you’ll need to pull out that little tidbit to insert to make your work better.
One of the other ways I learn craft is by listening to other authors about non-fiction books they recommend. Chances are if it has helped them, it can help me. Our chapter president thought this was so important that we now have a Recommended Reads section in our newsletter, The Final Draft.
But the key to any learning process is ingraining it in your gray matter, and then putting it into action. Sure a new way to plot can seem like a sure fire way to end your lull, but you’ll never get to join the others at THE END if you don’t use the tool to get back on track! I know workshops can’t go on forever, and by the end of conference we’re all twitching from overload, but I do wish more workshops were interactive. I don’t mean totally interactive because shy people don’t always like to be put on the spot. However being forced to put a plan (the focus of class) into action would be a step closer to using the info, instead of losing it to conference buzz.
In other news, I’ve been approved to do a workshop for one of my local chapters mixing Symbology and superheroes! It should prove interesting since it starts right after Halloween in 2009.
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