Five lessons learnt at Clarion

The Clarion Writers workshops http://clarion.ucsd.edu/ and http://www.clarionwest.org/ are now taking applications. At the suggestion of Jim Kelly, former Clarionauts are sharing five things we learned at Clarion as a Facebook meme. Here are my five for non FB people.

  1. I want to be a great writer. Which is a real bummer, because being a great writer takes real work and dedication and sacrifice. I was hoping at some point I would sell out and write a fifteen volume fantasy saga and get filthy rich. But it’s looking less and less likely. This is the problem with having great teachers…you have to live up to the standard they set.
  2. Your writing has as much depth as you do. It’s not possible to reach beyond the emotional range of your own experience. You have to live fully and explore your humanity before you stand a chance of writing stories that help others do the same. That doesn’t mean exploring unknown continents necessarily, it does mean exploring the unknown hidden in your everyday experience.
  3. Stop wasting time. Clarion is bootcamp for writers, because life afterwards is like going to war. The intensity of the experience is designed to show you the kind of intensity great writing requires. So much of life is wasted on things which, in the final analysis, have no meaning or value. Decide what is really important to you and focus on it to the selfish exclusion of all else. Throw away your TV and game console. These things have no place in your life anymore.
  4. Be with other writers. If you want to be great at anything, surround yourself with other people who are better than you. The real value of Clarion is being in the community of your peers. Join a good critique group or build your own. Go where other writers are. Make them your friends. And take joy in their success. Only bad writers hold on to jealousy over other writers achievements, because the only real person you are up against in this game is yourself (if that sounds like a platitude please know that I 100% mean it)
  5. Find your voice. There are many opportunities, especially in genre fiction, to imitate other writers. Don’t take them. If Star Trek franchise novels are truly how you express yourself then go ahead and write them, otherwise ignore anyone offering to pay you to write unless you can be sure you can find your own voice in that work. finding your voice isn’t a step on the path, it is the destination. If you accept anything less you are missing the whole point of the journey.
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