I attended a writers conference last Saturday at Columbus State Community College. It’s a free annual event. It doesn’t compare to the Antioch Writers’ Workshop I attended last summer (which, sadly, was the last AWW workshop – RIP), but I felt it was worth my time. And, as I said, it’s free.
The first session I attended was Susan A.C. Hogan’s “Writing Across the Landscape: A Workshop on Writing About Place.” As a former professional travel writer, I was curious about this session. She asked us to do a free write about our favorite place. Honestly, it was more difficult than I anticipated because no “favorite place” came to mind. So, I started to write about being home and, more specifically, my garden. Then I suddenly got a very vivid memory of watching the sun rise over Crater Lake. I ended up writing about that instead.
That is a beautiful memory. My husband and I were spending the night at Crater Lake Lodge in 2011. We were on a road trip from Seattle to Fairfield, California. He was still asleep, but I was awake early, so I crept out of our room and made my way down to the lobby with a book. I was going to read in front of the fire. But first, I found a spot on the porch and watched the sun rise over the lake.
Afterwards, I sat in front of the fireplace in perfect peace and contentment, sipping coffee and reading a book. It was a highlight of the trip for me, and my husband slept through it all.
The second session I attended was Casanova T.L. Green’s “It Shall Spring Forth: Making Your Writing Revelatory.” It focuses on moving past personal barriers (trauma and bias) and creative barriers to produce impactful work. We didn’t do any free writing in this session. I suppose that’s a good thing. If you have a lot to unpack, it’s probably not a good idea to start unpacking it in a 50-minute session.
And believe me, I have a lot to unpack. I have written a little already about the emotional abuse I endured growing up (and well into my adulthood until I decided I needed to take control and put an end to it). There is a lot more I can write about that if I ever take the time to sit down and focus and unpack everything.
But what’s at the forefront of my mind now is the disastrous end to an otherwise successful two years I had in graduate school. Were it not for that, I would have a master’s degree. It’s something I need to write about. It’s been 16 years, and I’ve buried all my trauma and resentment from that time. I’ve made several attempts to start writing about it and haven’t been able to break through whatever barrier is holding me back. But I actually came to a revelation a couple days ago doing my morning free write – a habit I’m trying to get into. It’s something I never thought about before. And I think that lifted the barrier to writing about it. It’s just a matter of taking the time to sit down and write the story. I’m no longer ashamed of my failure. We all fail. It’s how you rise above it that matters.
The final session was Susan Flatt’s “How to Tip Toe Around Our Internal Editor.” Confession time: I am horrible at turning off my internal editor while I write. I edit as I go, which pretty much everyone says not to do. But I can’t help myself. I tried just this past week to free write for 10 minutes every day without correcting typos or any other mistakes, and the red squiggles that highlighted my mistakes were so distracting, I could think of little else. This was an interesting session, but I’m not really sure it helped me tell my internal editor to back off while I write. Old habits die hard, I suppose.
I think the sessions could be a bit longer, but otherwise, it’s a good event. I am hoping to go again next year.