Tips

Shut Up and Create in 2019! My May 18 Workshop Can Help. ($100 off until April 5!)

Shut Up and Create! students engage in a variety of fun exercises to help spark their creativity.

Shut Up and Create! students engage in a variety of fun exercises to help spark their creativity.

It’s time to wake up and engage your creativity to write and publish, make a film, commit to painting or by starting your own business. In my last Shut Up and Create Workshop, in February 2019, a dynamic group of students came together for a day-long workshop that helped them identify and commit to actions they can take toward their own creative goals. It was a great mix of folks: poets, non-fiction writers, a gardener and landscaper, and a woman who wants to open a creative business involving cats! As you see from the photos, we had a wonderful time, and the students left behind rave reviews (and tiny sculptures, collages, writings, and commitments to their goals and next steps). They even put their list of immediate goals in a bucket (get it? bucket list).

My next creativity workshop is on Saturday, May 18, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Jackson Free Press’ open learning space in Capital Towers in downtown Jackson. Read testimonials from the recent workshop (and my writing classes) here.

I believe all creativity tells a story, so storytelling will still be at the core, but you choose your medium for it. The workshop is super-interactive and fun. It will help you tap into and sustain the passion to tackle your dream; create space (physical and in your head) to commit to your craft; be daring enough to risk being mediocre so you can then be great; prime the pump; develop a creative rhythm; and link into a creative community to cheer you on.

The workshop segments include:

  1. Create the Passion.
  2. Brainstorm the Ideas.
  3. Plan Your Execution.
  4. Think Like An Artist.
  5. Get It Done.
  6. Find/Build Creative Clusters.

I am providing students materials and prompts for free writes and other inspiring exercises after you sign up, so you can immediately start exercises and guided brainstorming to help you decide what you want to “bring” to the workshop (whether a work-in-progress or an idea to knock around or just being ready to roll). At the last workshop, most of the students brought a piece to read or to share.

Many students brought writing to read to the group at the last Shut Up and Create! workshop.

Many students brought writing to read to the group at the last Shut Up and Create! workshop.

Class fee includes continental breakfast; lunch from Broad Street; snacks and drinks; a binder of materials and workshop supplies; a suggested writing/activity list and weekly emails of creativity suggestions (and writing tips)  leading up to the workshop to get you ready.

The non-refundable workshop fee is $250, all-inclusive, but I offer specials with the fee gradually getting to the full amount. I’m offering the workshop for $150 until midnight on Friday, April 5. You can pay by check, cash or credit card. 

The fee is non-refundable.

Write me at class@writingtochange.com for more information and to register for the class. You’re in as soon as your fee is in hand, and will get all the Shut Up and Create emails to date! All are welcome. Dress casually; come as you are, ready to be inspired to create. Let’s do this.

Reporting Advice: Shut Up and Listen

When I made the resolution back in January to get out and do more of the kinds of immersive reporting I love this year, I had no idea what that was going to mean. Fast forward four months, and I’m in New York City for the second time in two months deep into reporting on an issue vital to American society right now. (Stay tuned: I’ll reveal exactly what that is soon.)

It’s always interesting to report while on the move, whether that is a nearby town to where you live, or a city 1,000 miles away where you have to move from an AirBNB to a journalist friend’s bedroom to save on costs so you actually end up getting paid for all your efforts. So much about it is logistics: You have to make the call, or send the email, to get to who you want.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from my years of reporting: Always ask. That is, no matter who you want to interview, always try. Of course, anyone can say no, but they often won’t, especially if you clearly have done your homework and you really want to hear what they have to say.

If You’re Writing To Change, You Will Be Criticized

A week ago, I published my latest opinion column in The Guardian, knowing full well that it would cause a shit-storm. As a fairly progressive writer and person, I’ve discovered over the years that it’s not the people with polar-opposite beliefs who can be the most offensive, and even hurtful, when I write something they disagree with; it’s the people who expect you to carry the same water who can get the most upset.

No one likes a traitor. Or, at least someone they decide is a traitor. They will cheer you on and put you on a pedestal as long as you stay in their line, but when you dare to step out and look at something differently, you’d better look out. So, what results is a whole bunch of writers and journalists who either pander to a certain choir, and pull punches that crowd wouldn’t like, or who split boring stories down the middle with quotes from two “sides” and call it objective. Of course, it’s also usually boring and does little to make someone think.

I don’t write or choose my topics that way. I don’t play it safe.

Never Fear the R-Word: Reporting

It’s inevitable. When I launch a new Writing to Change 101 non-fiction class series, I get nervous-but-excited students signing up, many of whom are well into adulthood and have itched to write their entire lives. They want to tell their stories in one way or another, and all have stories to tell.

Many of them have had trouble sitting down long enough to write a few sentences, or they fear they won’t be any good, or they fear that somebody either will or won’t read their work. In many cases, they just don’t know how to get started. They know there’s at least one good story resting inside themselves, but they don’t know how to pull it out.

I send them a list comprised mostly of award-winning stories my paper has published, and then they show up and gather around the table. We talk about their obstacles, do some warm-up free writing, and then I get to the “writing process” part. And each time, I know many of them will be shocked by the second step on the sheet.

The first step is easy. They need an idea. Most of them have more of them, at least vague ones, than they know what to do with.

The second step on the list is “report.” This is where the fear sets in and, sometimes, the protestations.

“I’m not here to be a reporter,” one or another might say.

Damn, That’s Bad. But That’s Good!

I see it every time I start a new series of my narrative non-fiction writing classes. A group of folks who have wanted to write much of their lives, and haven’t figured how to make themselves to do it yet, crowd around my big table with a mixture of excitement and apprehension.

For the first class, I have students do a free write about their obstacle(s) to writing. We then discuss the obstacles and, almost to a person, their obstacle ends up being about fear. (Even the time-management monster so many live with is often about fear when they’re really honest about it, but we’ll get to that later.)

I don’t want to sound dumb.

I don’t spell well.

I don’t think I’m good enough.

I might be embarrassed or criticized.

All about fear. Every single one of them.

But fear of what? Usually of looking stupid, or of being exposed as a poser, which is the same thing. As someone who grew up in Mississippi where we have elevated deep-held inferiority complexes to an art form, I get what this feels like. To this very day, I have to overcome (usually) fleeting moments of feeling like I’m not worthy right before I pitch an idea or project I know that I’m full well capable of nailing. And I know I’ve lost opportunities due to this fear of not being good enough slapping me silly and causing me to not return a call or follow up something I should. It’s always about fear, if I’m honest.