Real Learning


I was a freshman in high school and was a part of a creative writing program where I got to spend two periods a day, five days a week, learning about stories and poems and screenplays. It wasn’t long before the other students and I were introduced to workshopping. It wasn’t called that, but that’s what we were doing as we sat around reading our pieces to each other and talking about what worked and what didn’t and why.

I didn’t really enjoy it. I liked when the teacher and my classmates liked my stuff, but I was mostly irritated when they didn’t. I understood everything I wrote wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t certain workshopping was the best route to improving my writing. I reflected on this one day after I’d finished sharing something and everyone had offered their varied opinions on it. “None of this is relevant when you give them that thing,” I thought.

“That thing” was something for which I had no other word. It was when you wrote a story that genuinely excited someone, or made someone laugh or jump in their seat. It was when you created something that elicited a response from someone before they had a chance to think about it or examine it or understand it. It’s like you shared is alive in its own way, and you didn’t even make it, truly, you just found and it learned how to show it to other people. It was the best possible thing you could do. It was the only thing that mattered in life.

The problem is I couldn’t do it all the time. I knew the point of workshopping was, theoretically, trying to help me in this, but I didn’t want the help. I just wanted that thing. I’d found it on my own before; couldn’t I just find it again and again and again? Where was it and where did it come from, and why did some people not believe in it? How can you not believe in the best thing in the whole of life?

It was a good class for me, I suppose. Maybe the best class I could have taken. Sometimes what you’re really learning can’t be graded or workshopped because you don’t even know you’re learning it. All you know is you’re being pulled along by something you can’t resist toward an end you can’t see.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.