God gives authors the talent to write, but to hone and improve your writing you must be willing to learn. Writers learn new techniques from books, writing groups, conferences, and workshops. No matter where you are in your writing career, there is always something to learn. No author sits down and writes a publishable book without ever studying the craft of writing.
I have been going to writing conferences since high school. My first writing conference was a summer enrichment writing program an English teacher who helped me with my writing selected me for. The program was for students who were talented. The program took place at Chautauqua High School which was about a half hour from our home. A bus took us there each day for a month during the summer. For an hour we learned about different techniques of writing; then for another hour we went over to the Chautauqua Institute. Our instructor would give us a writing assignment and we would find a place at the institute to write and something to write about. The institute is a wonderful place with lots of history: it’s a center of many arts, it has old fashioned summer homes, gardens, and special places like the Hall of Philosophy. I learned and I was inspired.
Then the English teacher gave me a brochure for another writing conference at a college during the following summer. My parents scrounged up the money for me to go and then they drove me there, many miles away. I spent a week going to different workshops on different aspects of writing and different genres of writing. I was rejected at my own school, but I was accepted among my fellow writers. I made friends who had the same passion I did, I learned, and I was inspired.
My senior year of school I collected donations from local businesses in my hometown and flew to Washington, DC for a journalism conference. I was given the chance to interview a senator of New York State. Each time I returned from the conferences my writing improved and my knowledge grew. My English teacher noticed a difference in my personality. She said I was happier, and she was right. The conferences were the one place I fit in and I got to study what was my passion.
The conferences continued as an adult when I joined Pennwriters. I started going to their annual writing conference. The conference was from Friday to Saturday at a hotel out of town. I loved going and learning. I also started going to Saint Davids Christian Writers Conference which was held at a college. Through the conferences I made more friends and continued to learn.
When I got married and moved out of my parents’ home, I began going to Saint Davids whenever I could get a scholarship and I could no longer afford to go to the Pennwriters annual conference. Luckily Pennwriters started putting on one-day conferences in my hometown. It was and is perfect for me. It’s affordable, there’s a variety of workshops to choose from, and lots of fellow writers to talk to, some I know and ones I meet for the first time.
This Saturday was Pennwriters Road trip 9, their one-day conference. For each hour there were three workshops to choose from like editing basics, finding your character’s emotional wound and character arc, and hitting your story beats. The workshops started at nine a.m. and went to four thirty p.m. with a half hour for lunch. I’m a member of Pennwriters and I attend their meetings, so I reconnected with friends and I made new friends.
In the workshops I learned about editing, formatting a manuscript, making a set time for writing, using your senses in your writing, how to look out for scammers in the writing field, and much more. Workshops were taught by authors who are published and used the techniques they teach or have important information to share. There was so much to take in that my head was whirling, but yet I was inspired.
Not all techniques that are taught work for every writer. What we do is take a little bit we learn from different workshops and find ways that work for us. Many authors suggest you sit at a desk in a quiet room where you can’t be disturbed and write. Others listen to soft music when they write. I sit on my couch with a lap desk and the television on. Once I get to writing the TV just becomes a hum in the background. I write at night when my husband is in bed and it’s just me and my dog. I took a little bit of advice from other authors and found something that works for me: my alone time is when my husband is in bed and my music is the hum of the television.
I love going to workshops not only to hone my writing, but to be inspired, and to talk and network with other writers. Many of my good friends are fellow authors who helped me grow as a writer and as a person. My friend Amy mentors me in memoir writing, my friend Catherine has taught me a lot about writing and helped me with editing stories for magazines, contests, and my memoir. My friend Roberta edits these blog posts, and my friend Kathy has edited my synopsis and memoir. My friend Todd is always encouraging me and giving me good advice. All these authors have helped me grow and there are many more who have helped and taught me a lot.
Writing is my passion, my talent given to me by God, and my therapy. It helps me with my mental illness, and it gives me a chance to help others. I always tell people if you want to get to know me, read my writing because I put all of me in the words I put on paper. I spill out my heart and soul with a strike of keys on a keyboard.
What’s your passion and how do you hone it? Does your craft or creativity help you with mental illness? Can you use it to help others? Pick something that you love to do and something that helps you deal with your struggles and find ways to hone it. Learn about it and meet others who have the same passion. This will help you make friends, express yourself, and help others. It will also be therapeutic to you.
Writing is my passion. Nothing will ever stand in my way of learning and making my writing better. Because I write I stand in the light of recovery with stories filling my mind.