By Elizabeth White-Olsen, Executive Director of Writespace
I remember how unsure I felt as I approached my first chance to lead a Writespace online workshop. I was excited, but nervous. To begin with, being online is not really “my thing.” I'm the kind of person who would rather discover a brown-headed nuthatch feasting on pine nuts high up in a loblolly than the latest, coolest app, meme, or viral video. I prefer to pay attention to the tangible world--to catch a sunrise, to cuddle up with a hot mug of coffee and a book--and, as an instructor, I felt like I would miss seeing the faces of eager students just across from me. I wanted to know my writers, to be able to see the latest books they were reading, complement their new haircuts, hear the familiar buzz of conversation as writers became friends during group work, and once in a while catch a look of confusion during a craft lesson, so I could speedily help clarify.
I love to lead writing workshops, but would the online experience be anywhere near as great as it was in person? Would it seem like something was missing? Within a few days, thankfully, I found the answer was a resounding “no.” What I found was that online writing workshops are just as lively, enjoyable, and effective as workshops I’d led in person. Though I didn’t get to see the new haircut or the new hardcover title pulled from a backpack or briefcase, everything I needed to know was right there: The look of confusion that would clue me in that I needed to clarify? The writer simply typed a direct question. The buzz of conversation as new writing relationships formed? I witnessed the same connections form online through writers’ comments to each other. All that I needed to know about my students and that they needed to know about each other came through their words, the words that comprised their stories and the words they typed to each other and to me.
By our final week, I felt like I knew my writing students as well as I would have had we worked together in person. I’d fallen in love with them--with their passion, intelligence, creativity, and talent--just as I do in person. I was so excited about their online work, in fact, I wanted to meet them offline, in person. It happened that every writer in our online workshop lived within thirty miles of Houston, so I planned a meeting at Catalina coffee shop on Washington Avenue, not far from Writespace. As it turned out, all but one writer could come; I was excited!
The day of the actual meeting, however, a storm got in the way. After I posted in our online classroom to cancel our get-together, I noticed a surprising twinge of relief. What if our writers didn’t look the way I’d imagined them? What if their smiles weren’t as warm as I’d hoped? What if these new writing friends I’d bonded with actually seemed like strangers? The irony--that I was just as anxious about meeting our writers in person as I had been to meet them online--didn’t escape me. Then I realized, everything that was supposed to happen in a workshop--the learning and growth, of course, but also the inspiration and strength we gain from our shared sense of purpose--had already happened online. We didn’t need to meet in person, because we’d already achieved everything we intended. The online experience had been every bit as valuable and satisfying as live workshops, and it didn’t need an additional live meeting to be complete.
Because you can gain so much so quickly from an online Writespace writing workshop--and without the commute--we hope you will join us in one this fall, so you can discover, as I discovered, that they are as exciting and powerful as the workshops we offer at Writespace studio.
-- You can learn more about Writespace's online workshops by checking out our online workshops FAQs, halfway down this page.