Are writers workshops worth it?

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Author and editor Brenda Covert loves writers workshops.

“I love writers workshops! It’s a change of pace from my daily routine, and that stimulates my imagination. I tend to get great new ideas in writing workshops along with the motivation to tackle them before the euphoria wears off. I enjoy meeting published authors and connecting with editors and agents.”

It’s clear that workshops are worth it for Brenda because they make a difference in what she does. She loves them because they’re fun and after she attends a workshop, she makes changes in how she does things.

Let’s be clear. You can’t make a helpful judgement about all writers workshops. You must evaluate each one and decide whether it’s for you. That depends on two things. It depends on what you want to gain, and it depends on what you’re willing to spend.

What do you want to gain?

There’s no one right answer to what you can get from a writers workshop. Brenda gets new ideas and inspiration. She gets to meet with editors and agents. What do you want to get from a writer’s workshop?

Do you want a professional critique of your writing? How about meetings with agents and publishers? Could be you want good ideas about things you can try. Maybe you want to meet an idle or role model. Perhaps your main goal is to connect with old friends and make new ones.

That leads to a simple question. Are you likely to get what you want from the workshop you’re considering?

What are you willing to pay?

You pay for workshop in two ways. Money is the obvious one. The other is time.

You may have to pay a fee to attend the workshop. Sometimes that fee will be waived if you do a presentation there. Less often, you may actually be paid for your presentation. You also must pay for your expenses on site and en route.

The time you spend at the workshop is time when you’re not working on your writing projects. That’s a form of payment too.

You may also pay with a bit of discomfort. At home, your work and your surroundings are familiar. The workshop is an entirely different environment. To get the most from it, you must be willing to dive into the experience.

Once you’ve decided if a workshop is a good choice for you, you need to get the most out of it. Here are some ways to do that.

Before you go

Make sure you’re comfortable with your decision. You’re not likely to get much from the workshop if you’re constantly thinking about how much it costs or what you could be doing on a writing project.

Clarify your goals for the workshop. Write them down. Writing out your goals will force you to be specific. Having written goals will make it easier to concentrate on them at the workshop.

At the workshop

Track how you’re doing against your goals. I suggest writing a brief version of your goals on a small index card. Keep the card with you. Refer to it constantly. Let it guide your actions.

Capture your learning. I use a small digital recorder to capture the ideas and insights. A friend of mine leaves voicemail messages for herself. Lots of people just take notes. Don’t trust your memory. Capture your insights and ideas right away.

After the workshop

When you get home, don’t go right back to work. Give yourself some time to process what you’ve learned and use it to make a difference.

Reflect on what you learned at the workshop. Reflect on the ideas you want to try. If it’s helpful, discuss them with a good friend.

Reflection is not enough. Make a list of things you want to do. Pick one. Schedule it and do it.

Attending a workshop is a complete waste of time and money if you don’t do something different afterward.

Takeaways

You can only evaluate the worth of a single workshop.

“Worth it” depends on what you want to get out of the workshop and what you’re willing to pay.

Before you go, clarify your goals and write them down.

Before you go, plan how you’ll get value.

At the workshop, capture your learning.

At the workshop, track your performance against your goals.

After the workshop take time to reflect on what you learned.

Attending a workshop is a complete waste of time and money if you don’t do something different afterward.

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