Finding My Voice as a Writer

  1. What kinds of classes, programs, or workshops have you taken to hone your skill as a writer? What sorts of exercises did/do you use to improve? Have you ever taught a writing class or workshop?

Because I trained as a therapist, my writing training has been related to therapy. I knew the basics of writing – grammar, syntax, sentence structure – and what I have learned is that writing for me is a therapeutic outlet.

I’ve always journaled as a way to deal with life. That started in my teenage years and the privacy issue with my mother. With life events as prompts, I wrote on scraps of paper and stashed them away in the heart-shaped candy box. It made me feel better.

When the Tucson Public Library sponsored a weekend journal writing workshop that coincided with the end of my second marriage, I enrolled with a friend for a Saturday/ Sunday workshop for a small fee. At a Journal Workshop by Ira Progoff, was the teaching manual. We were given notebooks with dividers that were preprinted: Stepping Stones, Daily Journal, Fulfillment, Goals, Spirituality – were some of the titles, but there were blank ones that we could use to set up our own meaningful categories.

The leader would read a prompt: then we would write, in silence, for fifteen or twenty minutes. At the end, we would discuss what the experience was like – not what we wrote, but how it felt to write. My confidence rose. I felt strengthened. It didn’t matter if we shared aloud what we wrote or not.  This workshop came at the right time in my life, and I knew that I’d hit on a technique for surviving.

In my career working in the adoption field there were nights that I couldn’t sleep for mulling over my cases. I learned that I could get up and ‘write it out’ and then sleep peacefully.

I proposed a workshop to teach other adoption workers at a national adoption conference that technique of journaling. I called the workshop “Swimming with Alligators – When You Just Can’t Get It Off Your Mind. . . “  I practiced on my staff; I practiced on a group of other professionals. I was ready to go national. It was fun!

A few years ago I participated in a writing workshop led by Maggie Mears; it was held at a retirement center and I experienced more fun! There were some powerful short pieces that came out of that workshop, and I have reproduced a few of them on my facebook page.

Over the years, I have attended expensive weeklong workshops and I have attended ones that charged almost no fees. The value, I find, is never relative to the cost. The true value has more to do with the energy I put into the workshop.

Beth Kozan

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