826.

There is a local branch in Seattle of 826, and every year they do a variety of writing workshops, with ticket money going back into 826 programming. Who can say no to that? I went to a few last year and found them helpful but more importantly, found them inspiring.

The series is back, and  Myla Goldberg and and Megan Kelso taught the first one I attended.

Secret: I had no idea who Megan Kelso was, and while I had heard of Myla Goldberg, I’d never read anything by her. Secret: In these workshops, it doesn’t matter. You’ll still get something out of it, and usually leave excited to read something by whomever was teaching it. This time was no exception.

The women asked each other questions about their processes for creating, which usually fed into an exercise. I love hearing what other writers’ processes are. Not because I believe any single person has the “proper” or “perfect” way to do it but because I can often glean something from their process that makes sense to me. Tuesday night, two things stood out.

1. Writing uses muscles you have to build up over time. OK, I’ve heard this before, but Myla phrased it in a way I can definitely relate to. Just like you can’t go out and run a half marathon if you’ve never run before, you can’t sit down and write all day if you’ve never done it before. You have to build up your writing muscles.

I get that!

I’m running a half marathon in two months–this will be half marathon No. 2–and I’m trying to do it smarter and faster this year, which has meant MUCH more disciplined training. I find myself working out six days a week, often doing two workouts a day. It took me a long time to build up to that kind of activity, not only because my body wasn’t used to it but also because my brain wasn’t used to it. That’s a lot of time in the gym instead of relaxing at home with a book, or my cat, or the television. Its a lot of time away from home, its a lot of time planning meals since I have to eat on a schedule when working out multiple times a day.

Building up to working out so much in order to run 13.1 miles was a no brainer. But for some reason, it had always seemed like I should be able to just sit down and WRITE. No matter how many times I heard “writing requires muscles,” it didn’t really sink in. When I would try to sit down and write and nothing would come, or I’d get distracted, or whatever might happen, I felt like I was lazy. Maybe I was (am), but maybe its because my writing muscles were fatiguing.

So the new goal is to build up slowly. Not only because I need to get my writing muscles in shape but because, just like running, writing requires a time commitment I need to get used to  having in my life. It means giving up time doing something else. That takes getting used to. New routines are hard, can be frustrating, and probably cause me more anxiety than I’m ever going to admit.

2. Start writing a character in first person, as that places you right in their head. Once you feel you really know them well, then you can switch to third. This can work for any character, major or minor.

Umm, brilliant. This is one I can’t wait to try out myself. Not sure what else to say, except thanks Myla!

I have tickets to two more 826 workshops this year, and I can’t wait to see what they’ll teach me!

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