Writing Courses

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Have you ever signed up for a writing class, either online or in person? I’ve taken a few over the last couple years since I retired and decided to devote more time to my writing projects. I have either not paid anything or paid under $40, although you can find classes online that go upwards of $400 or $500 per session. I’m not there yet as far as wanting to spend that kind of money but sometimes I’m tempted. 

I’m tempted because I would love to have some professional feedback on what I’m producing. I sometimes feel like I’m writing in a bubble, especially now with only essential businesses open. I joined a writing group last summer while I was in OKC that met once a month. I only attended one meeting. I felt inspired but wasn’t really sure I was getting the kind of feedback I really needed for my personal projects. The workshop consisted of writing from prompts and then going around the room and reading them out loud.

One of the most beneficial freebies I took and actually produced a sizable amount of content was a free online class called The Disobedient Writer. I’m not sure if the whole course is still available for free online. Here’s the link: https://thedisobedientwriter.com.

I’m currently taken a course from Coursera called Writing A Personal Essay. A portion of this series is free if you don’t submit any assignments. Still beneficial if you go through the videos and the writing exercises on your own.

Writing is a dynamic process, whether you’ve published 20 books or are still working on your first novel. I hope in the near future, we will be able to get together again in groups for feedback and support, but until then, it will all be virtual.

Down the Rabbit Hole

I like to research things on the internet. I also get distracted a lot. It seems that I am not able to watch a whole movie all the way through or enjoy a book without coming across things throughout that I just have to research. Some might say these are obsessive compulsive tendencies but I can’t wait till the show or the book is finished. I need to know right now.

I’ll give you an example. I’d just finished both seasons of Designated Survivor on Netflix and was scrolling for something new to watch. I came across a 2011 documentary called Magic Trip on Amazon Prime. This one hour and 47 minute documentary is an edited version of the hours and hours of filming the Merry Pranksters shot while taking that famous Ken Kesey-led bus trip across the USA. The documentary took me two days, maybe three, to complete because I kept wanting to know more about people and ideas that were referenced throughout.

This epic, although rather haphazard, journey took place just a year before the Beatle’s movie Help came out. And although I do remember seeing the Beatles, I certainly do not remember Ken Kesey or his bad of merry men (and women). So, once again, my friend, Google, satisfied my curiosity.

I had seen the movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest but had never read this book or anything else written by Ken Kesey. I googled Ken Kesey so I could see what else he’s done. I virtually borrowed “Sometimes a Great Notion” from the free Internet library (Archive.org) but then I didn’t want to read it until I knew what it was about. I don’t like surprises. My other friend, Wikipedia, told me it was about a logging family in Oregon so I passed on reading it. Not really my cup of tea.

Of course, Jack Kerouac was mentioned during Magic Trip, as well as Alan Ginsberg. Yes, I know who they are. No, I’ve never read their work. Another distraction from the documentary because I felt like I might not “get” it as well if I wasn’t versed in what the Beatniks, who were a huge influence on Ken Kesey, had to say. Back to the internet archives to do some reading. I got to about page twenty in “On The Road” and through the first section on “Howl.” Again, couldn’t get into either enough to make me want to read more.

Watched some more of the documentary. Tried to remember if I’d seen it before because it seemed like the kind of thing I would have watched. Also, I hate not knowing what’s going to happen. About three-quarters through the movie, when the Merry Pranksters have returned back to the left coast, Kesey goes into his philosophy, such as it was, and raison d’ĂȘtre for their next venture, the Acid Test Parties. Not five minutes into this section of the documentary and I was once again Googling. Turns out that Tom Wolfe, who I’d heard of, had written a book called the “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” which is a new journalism take on this whole San Francisco experience.

Borrowed said book from Internet archives. Started reading. I must admit Wolfe is a genius with description. He made the Haight and skid row more real than I could ever have with words and I was there in the mid 70s. Again, though, I only got through about ten or eleven pages and gave up. I do feel like I embrace new journalism, I spent a good portion of my high school years writing music reviews, but maybe Tom Wolfe was a little too “new” for me.

So now you know. When I watch a movie or read an article or hear a reference, I spend just as much time learning about it as just experiencing it. What in the world did we do before the Internet?

A New Long Term Project

I want to introduce something I began working on this week and that I hope will occupy my time for at least the next six months. This project is a series of personal essays and I will be publishing excerpts here on this blog, hopefully on a regular basis.

I am envisioning the end result to be about one hundred personal essays of about 1200 words each. I do have a title in mind already but I’m going to hold off on publicizing that. I am still working on my cozy mystery novels so will actually have two projects going at the same time. It’s nice to be able to breakaway from memory-dumping and self-actualization to some good old-fashioned light-hearted murder mystery shenanigans.

I won’t be posting any of the really raw stuff here. You’ll have to buy the book to get the real dirt. But I will try to make the bits and pieces I do post here of the highest quality. When one decides to take pieces of a writing project and publish on a blog, it becomes real really fast. You can’t change your mind or continue editing. Well, you can but you know what I mean.

I tried to start a memoir almost two years ago but just couldn’t get through more than a couple chapters. I still had some emotional stuff to work out and I didn’t have a real direction. With the personal essay format, I’m hoping that things will come together with more cohesion than previously. I think this will be more in tune with my ADHD tendencies and my writing style, which is more pantster than planner.

And just for fun, this week I started a free online course at Coursera called Writing a Personal Essay from Wesleyan University. Join me! The first assignment isn’t due until November 30.