Community membership in the Writers’ League of Texas allows businesses and organizations to support our programming and services. It’s also a great way for our community of writers to learn about the many valuable and varied services, programs, and opportunities available to them.
The Writer’s Workshop is a resource that provides writing workshops for novels and memoirs, creativity groups, coaching, and editorial services. Read a guest post from Writers Workshop director and coach Ron Seybold below.
How to Enter Finishing School
We lie about our writing. Most of us do, with the best intentions, to make up the stories about how much we’re working on our books. It becomes a story that a writer tells when they say “I’m working on my novel.” If you’re working on a book, and writing too little, it’s time to enter Finishing School.
The concept is at the heart of a new book by Danelle Morton and Cary Tennis. Finishing School shows us where we get in our own way about completing our works in progress. Six Emotional Pitfalls stretch out in front of us. Doubt. Shame. Yearning. Fear. Judgment. Arrogance. Not everyone feels all of them, but these are the reasons why we do not finish our work. Get a few writers together and their eyes brighten when they can be honest about pitfalls. “I’ll never be as good as Hemingway,” (Doubt) or “I never finish anything.” (Shame). Or “I get annoyed by writers’ groups, those losers.” That’s Arrogance, which is probably not your problem since you’re reading Scribe.
We struggle separately, alone with the pitfalls. There’s a way out and a way up, say Morton and Tennis. You learn to finish together, without judgment or even reading each other’s work. You make a schedule for one week, getting specific about what you’ll do. Details help. Then find a partner who does the same. You meet in person because it’s personal work. You promise to text or email them the moment you begin working. You meet seven days later and share how your plan worked. Or how it didn’t, but you’re honest now. You plan again, meet again. We become masters of finishing because, as Cary said over Skype from Italy, “Finishing School throws into relief the conditions of our actual lives.”
We start with overly ambitious plans. We begin with little awareness of our hurdles. It feels so good at first. Later, the writing plan haunts us when we fall short. Better to make room for your real life, forsee the hurdles, plan for them. Cary and I have one thing in common. It’s not that we’re both successful advice columnists (that was Cary at Salon). We both have training in the Amherst Writers & Artists practice. “I needed Finishing School for myself,” he says in his book, adding, “I had a panic attack while writing and ended up in the hospital.” He built Finishing School from his AWA training so “workshop participants would crystallize their time; schedule time to work toward it with mutual support; and work steadily to get that writing finished, polished, and published.” They also add accountability without judgment.
It’s a school you’d hope to see opened by a man who wrote advice from the heart for more than a decade. We can enter it with a group as small as two writers, artists of any kind, really. The book is powerful, the process transforming. Finishing School might not be the last school you attend. It’s a good bet it will be the most important one.
Find out about upcoming programming at the Writer’s Workshop here.
Ron Seybold is director at Austin’s Writer’s Workshop and a teaching volunteer with the Austin Bat Cave literacy program in schools. His debut novel Viral Times is available now in paperback.
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