I learnt a few days back that Seattle has a pseudonym — Lit City (short for literature, and not the colloquial term used by millennials to represent excitement). In October of 2017, UNESCO bestowed upon the city the honorable title, as part of UNESCO Creative Cities Network, and welcomed it to the group of 27 other cities including Dublin, Baghdad and Edinburgh.
“The designation is awarded to world cities that have demonstrated a fervent interest in literature, publishing and other forms of written expression. Seattle is only the second city in the U.S. to be so named, following Iowa City.”
This fact, although amusing, was just another piece of information on my memory shelf. Until I went for a writer’s workshop on April 27th, 2019.
How I Got A ‘Free’ Ticket
A few weeks ago I typed into Google ‘writers conferences seattle’. It gave me about 10 million results. After disregarding the top few advertisements, I saw myself clicking on the link to the Seattle Writer’s Workshop. After a dozen seconds, I knew the what, when and how much. It costed $189. Not too crazy, I thought.
However, having just graduated from a non-economical University, to put it mildly, I was fixated on sending back any spare money I had to pay back my loan in India. So I set out writing an email to the organizer requesting if I could volunteer for them during the workshop or help out in any way and get a discounted ticket.
Having lead many organizations in my college days, and organized many more events, I was always up for the task. I got an email after a week informing me that would not be feasible, for the simple reason that I won’t be able to concentrate in the sessions if I had to volunteer. That was a fair point. But my persistent self would not back down.
I told them I’m up for any task prior to the event as well, and asked them to re-consider. Whenever I approach someone with a proposition, I always let them take a day or two to think about it — you would be surprised how much extra time (and sleep) can influence decisions. I patiently waited for a week. Another week. I kept sending constant reminders, and they were kind enough to respond each time and say give us some time.
Finally, they got back with a proposition: if I could put up their flier in 20 coffee shops in the city, I could get a free entry. This instance showed me that not everything was a zero sum game — I got to roam the city I loved and learn the skill of a salesperson for a day, while they got their publicity done. It was the perfect happy ending I had hoped for.
Note: Free has a notorious connotation attached to it — it either devalues the commodity or alludes to an unethical manner in which it was obtained. This was neither — the workshop was extremely valuable and a fair share of work was done to get the ticket.
Glimpses From The Workshop
I scanned the room with over 50 people, all buried in their notepads (more so than laptops), who were scratching away furiously as the speaker serenaded us all in a solemn tone. It reminded me of my physics professor who would speak so softly that the entire class would be put in a trance —a deafening silence. Each student feared that their prattle might disturb someone else’s desire to learn.
There were five blocks during the day happening in three separate halls.
I was tempted to switch between sessions so I could quench my curiosity. But I decided against it — partly because the door gave a piercing creak every time someone attempted to open or close it. I sat through the sessions that focused on either non-fiction writing, best practices on editing or submitting pitches to agents.
I had been looking forward to this day since long. Initially, I was wary of learning by simply listening to someone talk. But my Notes app filled with two pages of information would prove otherwise. Yet the best lesson I learnt on the day was not from the talks. It was from the people.
Their passion towards writing was infectious — constantly displayed from the questions asked. I saw mothers who worked on their romantic sci-fi novel, grandmothers who were writing their second thriller, and middle-aged men who quit their previous job to write full-time. It was intimidating to be in a room filled with people who were much farther along their writing career than I was. It was also inspiring.
I was slightly disappointed though — the deadly mix of my introversion and imposter syndrome restrained me from interacting with the others. Thankfully, my goal to learn something new, be inspired and get the contacts of a few literary agents was met. Next time, I hope to address the former.
Woes of Writers
There is a perception among the general public that writing is effortless and fun — a great way to blow off steam after you get home from your tiring job. Only a seasoned writer can wholeheartedly disagree with that statement. As William Zinsser says,
“Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”
— On Writing Well by William Zinsser
I’m yet to reach a point where I can produce decent quality content every single day. But I know that is the holy grail of a writer — to glue their hands to the keys, eyes to the screen and write until their brain can no longer produce sentences that didn’t find their way into the metaphorical trash bin. And then write some more.
For now, I hope to keep getting better at perfecting my craftsmanship in writing. Assemble all the tools required to construct a sturdy wooden table before I begin to embellish it with finials and beveled edges. And eventually add the elegant touch that would show the readers instead of telling them what is happening.
I wanted to write about this for two reasons: to let other upcoming writers know the importance of attending workshops and conferences, and to once again reinstate the idea that persistence pays off.