We’ve all struggled with it before–the block. It is frequently called writer’s block, which conjures up the terrifying image of a blank, white, page. For me, however, a “blank” of ideas isn’t the problem. The issue tends to be a flurry of ideas, swirling like a giant bait-fish ball, and like a stymied seal, I can’t pick off a single individual and nail it down. Alternatively, many experience the block as a sudden gaping hole of doubt and anxiety: ideas they have, but each one seems to evaporate in the vicious light of self-criticism. Either way, the question remains the same: how do I conquer the block? One of my favorite answers: the writing workshop
Writing Workshops big and small
A writing workshop may resemble a conference, include fees and multiple speakers, and provide intensive classes. It may be as small as a group of friends, more like a book club. Here are some examples:
This is an organization I have belonged to at various points, and there are local chapters as well. The Northern Ohio Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has a very useful workshop program. This organization meets the third Saturday of every month to discuss current writing subjects as well to help writers and illustrators of children’s books with concerns and problems. Along with these monthly gatherings, it also hosts regular field trips and retreats as well as a yearly . Its 11th Annual Conference will be held on September 20-21 at the Sheraton Cleveland Airport Hotel located at 5300 Riverside Drive, Cleveland, Ohio. For more , locations and dates, visit the website.
San Francisco Writers Conference
Featuring 100+ bestselling authors, agents, editors and publishers (Feb 12-15, 2015)
University of Iowa
The Iowa Writers’ Workshop is a two-year residency program which culminates in the submission of a creative thesis (a novel, a collection of stories, or a book of poetry) and the awarding of a Master of Fine Arts degree.
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
The Helen Zell Writers’ Program is a two-year graduate program in creative writing leading to the Master of Fine Arts degree. Students concentrate in either fiction or poetry. Applicants must submit portfolios of their writing in one of these genres, and should have sufficient training in literature to succeed in courses at the graduate level. We select students with demonstrated talent and expose them to a variety of approaches to the craft of writing.
Not everyone has time to go *to* a workshop, so some other means of getting a bit of help is to tackle it online. Here are several options:
Gotham Writing Workshop
Driven by an ongoing commitment to provide our students with the best creative writing classes possible, Gotham Writers Workshop has grown to become the leading creative writing school in New York City and online.
I don’t know quite as much about this program, but it has good reviews. The “Village,” as writers often refer to Writers’ Village University, is a full-time support service and is always growing, offering new courses, seminars and special programs. It has been around since 1995.
There are also a number of universities that offer online creative writing, some of which are free.
Part of the UCLA Extension, the studio provides an intensive 4 days of instruction and writing. Participants choose from 10 workshops in which they work closely with a professional writer, limited to 15 students.
Iowa Young Writers Studio
This is a summer residential program for high school students, and it provides small seminars and workshops that emphasize craft.
When it comes to small, I usually suggest building your own; after all, social media provides us access to so many other writers and there are great ways of making connections. Or, if you live in a community where other writers are prevalent, face-to-face meetings are still fantastic. Need some ideas for drumming up writerly support? Try some of these links:
Next time you arrive at the block, reach out! You are most certainly not alone.