Deb: Making Good on Regrets

My friend tells me he has no regrets. None. Not about anything that has happened. Not about anything he has done.

It sounds good.

I’ve already confessed to being basically happy, but I do have regrets – plenty, especially when it comes to my writing. There are so many ways to rationalize the should-haves and could- haves: failure to understand and follow the market; failure to treat the unfolding of my lifelong dream as a career; naivete of the everyday sort.

When I entered the second half of my twenty-year career in teaching, I began to get serious about writing. I took advantage of every opportunity to learn about authors, books, and crafts. Attending conventions of the National Council of Teachers of English, I’d sit in on every author talk in the schedule, surreptitiously scribbling notes about the writers and their craft instead of about how to teach the books. I took workshops. I read and read and read about writing.

After A Distant Enemy came out, I started speaking at conventions – even those big national ones – and I began teaching at workshops. I’d made it. I was there. Readers? I had my agent and editor. Learning from other writers? Now they learned from me. Workshops? Those were for beginners.

I hate to think of the opportunities I missed. I know now that good writers are never “there.” We’re always learning, always improving, always gathering new perspectives. That’s why, if I weren’t teaching the upcoming 49 Writers Workshop on Finding Your Voice, I’d be taking it.

When I wrote my first and second novels, I thought little about voice. I wrote the story I saw in my head, and I liked how it sounded. Then I pubbed some books for younger readers, and because I could use fewer words to show the characters I envisioned, I paid more attention to voice. Now, I think about voice all the time. It’s partly a function of market: editors and agents, especially those working with children’s books, insist on strong voice. It’s also a function of my own maturation as a writer.

Andromeda and I have assembled a powerful collection of examples, ideas, and exercises to engage workshop participants on the topic of voice. Through our workshop planning, we’ve been exploring – sometimes debating – genuine questions like how voice differs from style (or does it?), why voice matters, where voice comes from, and what we can do when voice evades us. During the workshop, we won’t just expound. We’ll interact. Engage. And write.

More than most people I know, writers value their time. Our craft – our art – encompasses so many aborted beginnings, so many wrong turns. We squeeze our writing between so many demands, cheating it out of our days. We press on, mostly alone, determined to get it right, never knowing quite what that means.

We never have all the answers. But we have one another – for interaction, for dialogue, for guidance. If there’s a good workshop out there, sign me up. I’ve had enough of regrets.

2 thoughts on “Deb: Making Good on Regrets”

  1. Nice post Deb. I love workshops. It's inspiring to be around a group of writers hungry to learn and who love to write!

  2. I assume your friend is not a saint. So i must say he is either lying to you,in self denial,or he has no conscience. None of these "sound good."

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