I just returned home from two weeks at the New York State Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. And what a time it was! Imagine an alternate universe in which you are given a group of people who all share a common passion with you, and you can spend time with them all day long in a beautiful and calming environment. And you also get to watch people who pursue your passion professionally do what they do best almost every day of the week. Essentially, that’s what the Writers Institute was. It was heaven for writers, complete with workshops, readings, Q & A’s, and more. And I already miss it.
I learned so much from my time at Skidmore, and I’d love to share it with you! So here are some of the lessons I learned at the Writers Institute:
1. Debating something means you care.
At Skidmore, I was in the Intermediate Fiction Workshop that met three times a week for two weeks. During our workshop discussions, it could get pretty heated. But the important thing to take away from an in-class argument is that if someone is willing to argue over your work (or vice versa), then the piece of writing is worth caring about, worth saving. It’s actually a pretty awesome feeling when people care enough about your work to debate it. And when the debate is over, you can put your differences aside, grab dinner with your class, and let the air clear on its own.
2. Listening makes you better at what you do.
Whether it’s in the classroom or in everyday life, listening will lead you to where you need to be. I learned so much about my own writing strengths and weaknesses from listening to my classmates discuss my work. And when it comes to inspiration, it’s everywhere if you keep your ears open to it.
3. Getting up early isn’t as terrible as you think it is.
I got up for the dining hall’s breakfast almost every day for the past two weeks, and it left me with so much more time to get done what I needed to. Does getting up before 9 AM and going to bed before 1 AM make me an adult now?
4. Don’t ever put your wallet down in a store.
Because you will lose it. And the ladies who work at the Celtic Treasures store will think you’re a moron.
5. Bring enthusiasm to everything you do.
I swear, my Intermediate Fiction class and I were straight-up high on life for two weeks. We were constantly laughing, swapping stories, and being our strange selves, and I’ve never felt less stressed out. When you enter a situation with a hopeful and enthusiastic attitude, then you can really make the most of it.
6. Passion can bring anyone together.
Our class was completely diverse, with writers from all over the country with different majors and interests. But, as I learned at Wroxton last semester, you can find common ground with just about anyone. And when you share a common passion, it’s even better. I got to know people who I never would have met if it weren’t for our mutual love of writing. It was so empowering to be surrounded by people who shared my passion and who were willing to support me in pursuing it. Especially since we were almost all young adults, I noted how driven our generation really is. Give young people a common purpose, and they’re ready to take over the world.
7. Give yourself some credit.
Nearly every writer wants validation; it just comes with the territory. But I often forget to give myself credit for my talents and achievements. I went into this workshop thinking that I was a mediocre writer and that I had lost my passion for writing. But all it took was someone to remind me that I’m good at what I do and that I’m only going to get better for me to have the confidence to keep doing what I love to do.
8. Fear sucks. Do it anyway.
I was so scared to go to Skidmore (What if no one likes me? What if my writing is terrible? What if I wasted all this time and money on an experience I’m going to hate?) that I was thisclose to emailing the heads of the Institute saying I couldn’t come anymore. I dreaded the day when I would leave for New York because I was afraid I wasn’t good enough and that I would come out of the experience knowing that I didn’t want to be a writer anymore. But surprise, surprise, I don’t suck at everything! I got to know some of the most passionate and extraordinary people I’ve ever met, and I have a renewed love of writing that can only grow. Where would I be if I had sent that email? Probably miserable and watching Netflix all day. Instead, I’m ready to make some magic.
Have you ever gone to a writing workshop? What did you think of it? What kind of communities are you a part of? Let me know in the comments!
As always, thanks for reading.