Why write with other people

In this guest post, Julie Corbin, author of five novels (four published, one due for release this summer), shares why she still attends writing workshops even though she’s an established, published author:

I attended my first writing workshop back in 2005. It lasted a weekend and took place in a hotel just outside Eastbourne that has inspiring sea views and a windy balcony to sit on. I remember feeling excited and surprised when I ended up with a completed short story to take home with me. When I read that story now, it comes across as self-conscious and a bit worthy but it still makes me smile because that story was a significant milestone for me. I faced the blank page, combined effort, trust, art, craft and imagination to create a piece of writing that has a beginning, a middle and an end. Characters move and talk. Something happens.

I signed up for another writing course and then another. By 2008 I had an agent and my first novel was published in 2009.

Did I stop going to writing workshops?

No.

Six years on and I’m still going to workshops. Last summer I spent a week at the Arvon centre in Yorkshire with fifteen other writers and two teachers. Some of the writers are poets, some are working on novels, some short stories. The teachers gave us prompts and we sat around a large table writing. Just writing. The only sounds were the scratching of pens across paper and the ticking of the clock. There was a writer to my left and a writer to my right. At the end of each prompt we could read out (if we felt so inclined), discuss techniques (where we had a mind) — but mostly, the week was about writing.

I try to see my life in fairly simple terms. There are a few ‘must dos’ and ‘definitely don’t dos’, and what I’m sure of is this: I like to feel creative and the creative outlet I’m most drawn to is writing.

Writing is mostly a solitary process, and there’s probably no getting away from that, but being alongside other writers in an environment that feels inclusive and supportive is a gift to yourself. Magic can happen — yes, really! Sometimes it does feel magical when you experience the freedom to write down whatever you want — anything at all — without fear or favour. No one need ever read it. Your English teacher isn’t peering over your shoulder, neither is your husband/wife, dad/mum. This is about you, for you, and whether you choose to share it or not is entirely up to you. But while you might not share what you’ve written, what you do share with the people either side of you is a willingness to turn up and give it a go.

For me it’s about combining energy and building intention. Often writers, myself included, talk about writing as a struggle. And it can be a struggle, not simply to get to grips with what we’re writing, but even more fundamentally to actually sit down and put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. We wrestle with time and guilt, (and, in my case, laziness) because there are lots of other important things we should be doing, aren’t there? (Box set, anyone?)

Why not seek out like-minded people who are setting out on a similar journey to you. Fellow travellers and companions who will cheer you on when you’re flagging and in time allow you to do the same for them.

So if at the back of your mind there is a small voice that draws your attention every now and then by saying, ‘I’d love to write,’ then listen to that voice and sign up for a workshop. You might just surprise yourself.

Find out more about writing workshops with HoneyLeaf Writing, and if you live in Sussex, come along to a workshop at East Grinstead Bookshop this spring.

Look out for Julie Corbin’s new novel, What Goes Around, this summer. Like her Facebook page to find out when.

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