10 Things I learned at the workshop in Denver that I’ve never learned at any other writers workshop… ever. 

I’m not big on explanatory paragraphs, but here you are. I have written you five. Let’s set the scene:

I attended a workshop in Denver last weekend to learn how to be the face of my own brand/a well-spoken, confident thought leader in the online #writerscommunity. Why? Because that is how you sell your books. So, I went. And I survived. And it was amazing, and it was horrible, and it was uncomfortable, and it was inspiring, and exhausting, and empowering, and any other adjective you can think of all at the same time.

And I survived. That’s the most important take away from the entire weekend! I have been home for five days and I still haven’t recovered all the way. It was so emotional. And I am not a person who feels comfortable when I am forced into other people’s emotions against my will. And yet there I was, immersed, for four days, in a room filled with emotionally unstable strangers with access to a microphone and no means of escape.

So how the hell did this workshop go from “learn to be a well-spoken thought leader” to “group therapy session 101”? It actually started with a simple request from the speakers — to be honest. Intriguing, isn’t it? It’s such a simple request and yet it set the groundwork for a safe, encouraging atmosphere where we could be truthful and make mistakes without fear. Because that is how you be the face of your brand — you speak honestly and without fear.

Now, I understand that I am unique in that I would never walk to a microphone in front of 350+ strangers and tell them a personal story that should only be told to my therapist. However, before this weekend, I never realized how many people would do that. And yes, they showed bravery by doing so. And yes, they proved how safe of an environment the workshop truly was; but more than anything, every time someone went to the microphone, it reiterated something I already knew: Wow, am I an awkward person.

So, here’s a funny little video I made after an emotionally intense lunch so you can feel like you were actually there, and below that, is my list of 10 things I learned at this workshop that I have never learned at any other workshop ever. And for that, I am thankful I went.

 

 

lol I’m so funny! Ok, now the list:

1.  I have a voice, and I am worth listening to. 

The truth of this statement is so loud and so clear, and yet I don’t think I have ever been told it before. When she said it to me, she looked me right in my eyes. Her words hit my soul deeply, causing me to burst into tears. Because I do have a voice. And I am worth listening to. And so do you.

2.  Honesty is everything. 

The clichéd and over-Pinterested quote is, “Write what you know”… and even more clichéd and over-Pinterested is all of the blogs out there explaining why this is an inaccurate statement. Well, I don’t think it is inaccurate, I think that it is just misunderstood. You cannot truly know a lie, so write honestly. Trust your knowledge, and be authentic in your words.

3.  Money is not in books. 

It’s the sad fact of today’s world. Traditional Publishers do not publish talent, they publish trends. They publish what will sell because there is not a lot of money in selling books, and it needs to be a sure deal. Take that knowledge how you will.

4.  Passion does not fade with age. 

I was one of the youngest people there, and I turn 29 in October. How cool is that, though? As the uncertainties of youth fade with the years, our passions simply become more intense. You are never “too old” to succeed.

5.  Our thoughts are perceptions. 

There are only three filters that our mind can be in: “Gloomy”; “Reality”; and “Potential”. The trick is to find a balance. You won’t write anything when your thoughts are filtered in “Gloomy”, but you won’t do the hard work if you are always in “Potential”. If you can tune out “Gloomy” and balance “Reality” with “Potential”, then you can accomplish the world. And also, that’s way harder to do then they said it would be. Helloooo anxiety, my old friend. 😜

6.  I don’t have time to write because… #safeproblems

A safe problem is a problem you create that gets in the way of you writing or editing or sending your manuscript out. They aren’t real problems. They are just road blocks that you subconsciously put in front of you, because accomplishing your dreams comes with risk and risk is not safe. Like for me, my safe problem is that I “need” do the dishes before I write, except I never do the dishes. I always end up procrastinating doing the dishes by watching TV instead, so I never write. It’s silly, because it’s not a real problem. I mean, let’s be honest here, I’m not going to do the dishes whether I write or not! And yet, it stops me from writing almost every day. Except today. Because today I take control of my safe problem! As I write this blog, I literally have a sink filled with dishes just sitting there and it’s annoying, but look — I’m writing! And the TV is off.

7.  People are more impressed with writers than we think. 

Seriously, though. I learned to introduce myself as a writer through out the weekend, and the response was always, “No way! How cool! Are you a mysterious creature similar to a literary unicorn?” And I would reply, “Yes. Yes I am. Thank you for noticing.”

But real talk, if you take nothing else from this blog but this advice, introduce yourself as who you are. A writer.

8.  Transformation is beautiful. 

Isn’t it? We are always so afraid of it in our own lives, and yet it is what turns our characters into people. If I were a character in a story, this weekend was a turning point for my own character arc. I can already feel the transformation beginning simply by how clearly I have been able to articulate my dreams. Enchanting, isn’t it? And it was all triggered by a simple question.

9.  Life is made up of chapters. 

It’s an idea that has been reworded into many an inspirational calendar, but think about it. When we write a story, we write the beginning with the end in mind. We lay the groundwork and drop hints of what comes next (more cleverly known as foreshadowing) through out the chapters, building the story up to get to it’s ending. So, all truisms aside, if our life is a book, then doesn’t it make sense to write this chapter with the next chapter in mind? If chapter 18 is being published, and chapter 12 is finishing the manuscript, then what has to happen in chapter 3 to get you (the main character) to chapter 20? Oh, and make sure to include plot twists in your life story because they make things interesting. Especially when — plot twist! You announce them. Out loud. In normal conversation.

10.  This path has been traveled before. 

As writers, we do not pave the way. The story has been told before. The road we travel is well-worn and weathered down through the years of existential thoughts that are not original. Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, Rowling, Fitzgerald… they have all walked this path before me, leaving their footsteps for me to follow. And now, it is my turn… but the steps I leave behind are my own. And that in itself is beautiful.

 
And there you have it. 10 Things I learned at this workshop that I never learned before ever. Which one struck you the most? Any new-found inspiration brewing? Let me know about it in the comments! 🖋

M . A . Ryan

 

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