Friday, July 6, 2012

Energized in Iowa: A Week of Inspired Writing

Schaeffer Hall- building at University of Iowa in which all of our writing
workshops met daily.
This past week I accomplished more toward my writing goals than I have in the past  six months. How did I do this? Simple - I spent 7 days in Iowa City at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival, that's how!

I returned home all energized about my writing - that lasted all of 3 days. This week, I've really been struggling to maintain the same momentum I had in Iowa City. I realize that just because the workshops I took were excellent, there was vastly more to the process than merely fantastic instructors, eager participants, exciting speakers, and plenty of time in which to write. I know, what else could there be?

Each day, there were writing assignments, readings to analyze and to discuss, classmates' essays to "workshop" - that special University of Iowa process in which each group member gets copies of the other group members' papers to read the day in advance. Each day, several participants' works were discussed positively,  constructively, and systematically. Accountability goes a long way, too.

Baaa. the exterior of the Natural History
Building on U of Iowa campus.


"What worked for you?" asked one instructor.

"What didn't work- but state this in the form of a question to the writer." said another.

"We all need praise and suggestions or advice." said the first one."

And the second one reminded us to, "always read your work out loud. You'll be surprised by what you can learn."

But there was even more to move me forward; I was in a place that gave legitimacy to my answer, "I'm a writer." when responding to the question, "what do you do?" And everywhere I went, people seemed focused on quality reading and writing. On the other hand,  there was no grocery shopping to distract me, or dogs to walk, or cooking and cleaning to manage. There was no laundry to fold as an escape, and no bills that couldn't wait for a week until I got home.

Recently, I read that Stephen Crane wrote The Red Badge of Courage in just ten days and nights. Of course, his maid, man-servant, and cook managed all the aspects of his life that weren't related to his writing.

I like to imagine that if I, too, had all those mundane aspects of my life taken care of for me by others, I could surely be as productive as Crane was. Fortunately, I'm at no risk of having my fantasy destroyed!

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