Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Trench warfare in the workshop setting

We humans feel a natural need to bond together in the face insurmountable odds, tragedy and suffering. Those who survive the battlefield together almost always come out the other side as friends, sometimes of the life long kind.

I can’t say I was exactly expecting that kind of experience at BONI this year. Yet, as I recounted the events of the week to Erik, he pointed something out: part of the reason I felt like I’d bonded more strongly to more people this year over last year was, quite frankly, our shared misery.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There was nothing wrong with the workshop. As always, Don, Lorin and Jason were great, the classes were wonderful, the crit groups were productive and the venue was cool. And with a very special exception, all of the attendees were awesome peeps. So why in the world would I bring up trench warfare in the same post as the workshop?

Because it only takes one person being bat-shit-epic-fail to inspire World War I sized feelings of “I’d like to feed you my foot through your ass” pretty much universally in a group of thirty adults, of which most prefer introversion and violence of the fictional kind.

I won’t bore you with the full list of horror stories I both heard about and experienced first hand from this person, but I would like to give a few basic tips on you can avoid being the person at a workshop dubbed “you know who.”

  1. Don’t mock people when they're introducing themselves.

  2. Don’t answer every question people ask the speaker during the presentation like you are the speaker.

  3. Don’t talk nonstop. (And when I say nonstop, I mean “why hasn’t that person dropped dead from oxygen deprivation” nonstop. All day. For SEVEN DAYS.)

  4. Don’t go around telling people that the instructor didn’t read anyone’s submission just because said instructor didn’t think your writing was perfect.

  5. Don’t critique people in a crit group by saying “The instructor would tell you to do this” and proceed to stomp out of said group when people offer constructive criticism.

  6. Don’t appoint yourself “workshop assistant” and start barking orders.

Did you answer “Well, duh” to any of the above bullet points? Congratulations. You have more tact than someone who claimed to be a 20-plus year publishing industry veteran and almost initiated a Thunderdome remake in sleepy Hood River, Oregon. Cheers!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

To be applied to writing and life in general.

I saw this post (tweeted by Donald Maass - @DonMaass) and felt a resounding hell fucking yeah.

This is not the way to live your life. Jealously is indeed human nature. We've all had times where we've seen someone else's success and think, damn, I wish I was the one with {insert great thing}.

But letting it become a downward spiral like this writer? Don't. And don't think the people around you, in this case other writers, don't see you for what you are. Things like that can get pretty obvious - even on the internet.

I once had a person I thought was a friend tell me "seeing you happy makes me miserable." To be honest, I'd suspected as much for years, but the very thought - daring to think I was worth being jealous of - made me feel like a jerk so I ignored the feeling. Deep down, though, you always know the truth.

I hope we can all have success as writers. More importantly, I hope we all figure out what it actually means to be happy with the choices we make and the successes we have as writers – and in life in general.