Friday Speak Out: "I Need Writing Workshops Like I Need a Personal Trainer," Guest Post by Jennifer Smith Gray

Friday, April 30, 2010
I Need Writing Workshops Like I Need a Personal Trainer

by Jennifer Smith Gray

I love to write. I want to write. I have many story ideas brewing and I know I need to write them down. I know that I will be a better writer the more I write.

I like to exercise (I tried to use love here, but just couldn’t do it). I want to exercise. I have many thoughts about my fitter, leaner, healthier life and I know I need to get on with it. I know that it will be easier the more I do it.

But, both activities seem to be pushed aside far too often. With a demanding job, a busy family, and a mild addiction to a select few television shows, writing and exercising frequently get carried over from one day’s To-Do List to the next.

In the past, I’ve resorted to paying to exercise. Even gym memberships or weekly fitness classes didn’t always provide the necessary motivation though—I didn’t have to go. What did work was a personal trainer, because I did have to go to meet up with him—I was paying him $60 an hour regardless of whether I showed up.

Now, I’m applying the same theory to my writing. It may seem silly to pay money just to write, but it has been working. When I commit to a workshop, I go, I write, and I keep on writing. Some workshops have had me writing pieces on the spot, from prompts, and reading those out loud to a group. A few of those pieces have been the starting point for longer works. A recent day-long lecture workshop sparked the idea for a memoir that I’m working on now. I hope that an upcoming online workshop will provide a straightforward introduction to the world of book reviews.

Of course, I could just write, and learn these things on my own, just as I could go for a jog and do push-ups on my own at any time. But, when I was working out with the trainer at the gym, I gained more than just fitness. I learned what I was doing wrong, I heard about other success stories, I learned how to vary the routine, and I saw results.

Similarly, writing workshops, with fees typically much more affordable than a personal trainer, give me:

• Forced time to write.
• A built-in audience—what motivation to know a piece of writing will be read or heard, not just sentenced to life in the In Progress folder on the laptop.
• Professional and personal contacts.
• Tips and lessons learned from writers who have been there.
• Results.
The key for me now is to heed the one piece of advice that comes out of every single writing workshop I’ve been a part of—set aside time to write every day, no matter what. If I can fit that in, along with the occasional workshop for further development, I’ll be in good shape, so to speak. A personal trainer is out of the question right now, so I guess I'd better walk or bike to my writing workshops—at least the ones that are not online.


Jennifer Smith Gray is a technical writer by day and writes creatively as much as possible by night (or whenever she can fit it in). When she’s not attending writing workshops, she’s exploring her East York, Toronto, neighborhood with her husband and kids, and perhaps thinking about exercising.


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