Workshop Guidelines

Tuition & Refunds:

By signing up for the class, you reserve class time. The Cognitive Method limits class size.  Once you've reserved the class, it is yours; we can't resell it. Therefore, you are responsible to pay your complete tuition. If you have a problem, please let us know. 

Time:

Arrive for class early, if you want tea or coffee, or on time. We wait for latecomers. Class attention needs to be evenly distributed, and we need to end on time. Waiting for latecomers means less time for everyone.

Positive Attitude:

The WYF Method is not concerned with writers' lives or psychologies: we are interested in writing as written text. Put your attention on text and on a positive and creative attitude: write more, read more, enjoy more. Many people---indeed, many (gasp) writers---are in the habit of explaining or apologizing. Not much is forbidden in the WYF Method, but we will interrupt explanations and apologies.  The truth is, such ex post facto contextualizing changes nothing and your comments may disturb the beauty of your reading. Therefore, use class to focus on the written word while developing a constructive, positive attitude. 

Before class, prepare:

1,000 words to read aloud— or the equivalent of 6 minutes of reading; you may have to rehearse. Usually between 3-4  pages. You need not bring in a complete story, indeed, chunks from the middle of things are fine. And please, don't worry about entertaining or impressing us. Let me remind you that this is a workshop, not a perfectshop. Please don't fret about "how good" your work is or if it makes a good first impression. That's not the point. The point is to become a better writer, so bringing in something that you wrote recently and enjoyed working on should be the first criterion. Pleasure and recent are good places to index.

Notebooks

Consider three separate notebooks:

1. useful to keep track or your daily writing time and process. Or could be any calendar/organizer thingie;

2.small enough to carry around with you all the time, to have bedside, to be there at the stop light when you have an idea;

3. to track your in-class experiences, hold your handouts, make you feel like you're in high school again. 

Questions?:

It's best to have a question to ask before you read---what are you working on? Dialog? Character? Setting? And always ask any question you have about any aspect of writing.

Class:

Each WYF class begins with a discussion of concept. This is why you come on time. The concept may be a writing principle, a practice, or some other useful tool. Conceptual learning involves writing exercise; so, each week, bring notebook and pen. In-class exercises help establish the habit of moving your pen before you can start your inner control and critique. Write first, blab second.

In-class writing: When we write, we write as fast as we can, without stopping or judging. Workshop writing is, by definition, forced, hasty, ill-conceived, embarrassing, and if you can get over it, fun.  The voice in your head that says, “That’s not appropriate! or that’s  not good enough!” That voice is a fiend who hates and fears your most creative self.

Reading: 

Everyone in class reads work aloud every week.

When you read your work aloud:

When you put the commitment, energy, and coordination to voicing your text, you stimulate many more brain regions than if you read silently. When you speak only the words on the page, you have the experience of knowing exactly the effects of the words you have written.

1.  No apologies; when it’s your turn to read, the only words out of your mouth are a specific question, if you have one, then the words on the page.  Questions are one sentence long; they end in a question inflection and are not the place to insert excuses, complaints, or apologies.

2.  Read at a relaxed, easy pace in your own conversational voice; you need not add character or act out anything: the words, spoken by the storyteller are very powerful.

3.  When you finish reading, you’re done talking. If you had an epiphany while reading, great: write it down.  Listen carefully: take notes (you won't remember): absorb the fresh, unbiased impressions of your work. 

You may smile and quietly nod as you take notes.  Enjoy any praise, in fact, make a special note!

Listening:

You will listen to others’ work every week. You can learn as much by listening as you can by writing.

When responding to others---  the group is smarter than any one of us, so:

1. Listen carefully: You are listening for what is specifically effective in the writing.  If something is funny, laugh, etc., but let yourself recall the words that did it.  If the writer asked a question what in the text bests answers it?

2. A. Responding: everyone will offer a response, so be brief. Try to quote text. Please don’t offer a laundry list, but know worked for you, and can you explain why?

2. B. Please make only positive responses: by accentuating the positive, you assist the group members in silencing their inner critics and nay-sayers. Avoid your “helpful” impulse to write for the writer. Each of us is creative; creativity is stimulated by positive feedback.

3.  The WYF class is not a debating society. While other workshops may solicit writing advice from the peer-writers, this is not those workshops. Peer response is very useful for writers to understand what aspects of their techniques are working. However, you are paying for expert as well as peer response: therefore, the moderator may offer specific writing advice over a range of subjects that the peer response won't touch on.  This advice is not a point for debate; however, it may be an opportunity to ask for clarification. The moderator may table discussion at any point for any reason.

 

Why your workshop is like Vegas: What gets said in the workshop, stays in the workshop. Text is just text, not reality, not confession. Please respect one another’s privacy when creative work takes intimate or bizarre twists. It’s a very small world; to make writing safe and liberating, we need confidentiality. Would you like to overhear your story being discussed on line at Starbucks? In addition, the WYF Method advises workshop writers not to share their work outside the workshop: you’ll keep your focus better. And certainly never with lovers, spouses, family, or friends. What do they know? Or with other workshops. Unless, of course, you’re looking for resentments, paralysis, confusion, crossed purposes, and/or misunderstanding. I've observed that those who share most promiscuously, progress less quickly. Creativity can be fragile, protect it.