For a moment, let’s talk about developing your skill as a writer when you’re an adult. This can be really difficult, for a couple reasons:
- This isn’t walking down the street for your 30 minute Tuesday night piano lesson with Old Ms. O’Leary when you’re 7.
- This isn’t your mommy driving you to soccer lessons after school with your best girlfriends Tibby, Libby, and Kibby.
- This isn’t even going to creative writing club in the student union and reusing the same material for creative writing class next semester (to the bane of the professor).
Developing any talent as an adult is HARD. Why? Because you really have to do all the leg work yourself. When you’re a kid, your parents pay your coach and your coach takes care of the logistics. When you’re a student, your advisors and professors lay out a roadmap for you. As an adult, there is a higher barrier to entry in large part due to the amount of research you may want to take on when choosing a mentor/group/coach for whatever talent you want to develop.
What this is, is moving to a new city, with networks you don’t know, and trying to determine:
- Where the networks of writers are, and how to navigate the network socially and professionally.
- Balancing work with workshopping, as well as carving out enough time to work on one’s craft.
- How to manage etiquette and (sometimes) social awkwardness in a situation you’ve never experienced before in order to build your personal network.
I, and I’ll assume some of my readers, would give their left foot to get into a program like NYU’s MFA in their chosen discipline (poetry or fiction) but either aren’t applying because of fear of rejection/have a hunch their work isn’t good enough (that’s me), applied and didn’t get in, or don’t have the resources to be successful in a program they would dream to be in.
So, what I, and people in a similar situation are left to do is create as much space as they can for time to develop their writing in their daily lives. This seems simple enough: time to write, time to workshop, time to read, time to talk about others’ work with other writers.
Unfortunately, for all the writers groups, workshops, adult classes, and continuing creative writing education courses there are out there, there seems to be a smaller number of guides that can advise someone in navigating and utilize these resources.
- How do I find and choose the best writers’ group/workshop for my schedule, style, genre, and writing needs?
- How honest are writers’ groups in describing this themselves?
- And doesn’t worrying about this just heap a great new causality dilemma on all of us: if one needs a network of writers to suggest a good group for oneself, but can’t develop a network without joining a few different groups in the first place (which may or may not serve to yield a network if the groups joined don’t mesh well with one’s personality?)
In the end, the old advice might be best: write. Read. Join a writers’ group (being in a big city or near a college helps). If you don’t like it, stop going, and join a different one. Get feedback. Practice some of it. Repeat.
And let’s be real. Life will get in the way, it always does. (Your work schedule might mean you don’t workshop for months.) But when you want something, you’ll find a way to get it. Life as a wall isn’t there to stop you, it’s there to make you work harder, and for this, you’ll eventually be better.
Above: Image of a scriptroium. This guy knows what’s up.