Prepare yourselves, dear readers, for today I will be telling you about an experience that changed my life.
No, not a death-defying feat, a thrilling adventure, or an inspiring turn of events.
Specifically, “You Can’t Suck at Everything,” a writing workshop that I was lucky enough to attend last October at GeekGirlCon ‘18.
As someone who has abandoned so many half-finished novels I could set up a small graveyard in my backyard, I couldn’t get to this workshop quickly enough. Not only did it promise to help provide the basics of a 3-act story structure, delve into character creation and worldbuilding, and explore how our perceived “flaws” are actually key to finding and articulating our own unique perspective as writers, but it was also run by the one and only Margaret Stohl.
If you are one of the ten billion people (a rough estimate) who devoured the Beautiful Creatures series (co-authored with Kami Garcia), you might be familiar with the powerhouse talent that is Margaret Stohl. As if being an internationally bestselling author isn’t enough, Stohl has also written multiple comics, including the Mighty Captain Marvel series, and has a long career as a writer and narrative director for video games.
Almost immediately, Stohl cultivated a sense of community in the workshop, uniting us all as writers, artists, and creators of all kinds. It can be so easy to feel isolated as a writer or creator. If you’re like most of us, you’re probably plagued by constant doubts, spend an unhealthy amount of time with fictional characters, spin off into daydreams when you should be doing things like “concentrating” or “working at your day job,” and guard your work like a fearsome dragon mother.
This workshop felt like the perfect antidote to the self-imposed isolation of doubt, fear, and embarrassment. When everyone’s in the same boat, what is there to be self-conscious about?
There were so many points, tips, and ideas that I walked away from the workshop with, but, in the interest of not making you read a full thesis, here are some of the highlights:
- Everyone has a story, and everyone wants to tell a story. As Stohl said, “I’m interested in yours and you should be more interested in yours than anyone.”
- Don’t put off what you want because you’re worried about failing. You will fail! Spoiler alert: that’s okay.
- It’s hard to take yourself seriously as a writer and creator, even–and especially–if it’s the thing you want most in the world. Do it anyway. Affirm yourself as a writer and creator.
- “If you want something, you take it. There is exactly nothing standing between you and that thing.”
- “You cannot write a protagonist without being a protagonist in your own life.”
- Understand who you are writing for, and write for them, not for the whole world.
- A novel is, at its core, just 30 words. Write a list of 30 words that map the arc of your story, and make those your chapters. Go from there.
- You are probably a specialist in fear. Write about that, use that. There is nothing you know more about than what you fear.
- Start developing and curating your “brain office.” Collect and organize your material, even in your own mind.
- Keep everything. Old lists, descriptions, terrible poems, scraps of dialogue. Keep it all.
- Find a critique partner for accountability and support.
- “Do not confuse sucking at one thing with sucking at everything.”
There you have it, some solid gold advice for when you’re feeling stuck, uninspired, or insecure. If I came away with one conviction from the workshop, it’s that I’m a writer. I’m a creator.
You probably are too.
Now let’s go write.