Okay, take two of this, since WordPress’s “Hey, try our quick post!” apparently means, “Hey! Type out a post and we’ll make it disappear!”
I attended the Clarion workshop in 2011, and I remember going into it that everyone said kind of encouraging but also infuriatingly vague things like “it was great, but it’s hard to put into words what was so great about it.” Post-Clarion, all of us struggled to capture that feeling as well, and for a bunch of writers, it’s amusing to see how difficult it was to state plainly. But I think the reason is that we are not only aware of what we got out of it, but what everyone else got. For me to say, “I learned to critique better, I learned some things to improve in my writing, I met some amazing people in the writing community and gained confidence about my writing” sounds very dry and doesn’t convey the power of the six weeks we spent there. But to say, “I gained a writing family,” while it does convey that, sounds rather overblown and overdramatic.
The point is, I guess, not to stress about what you’re going to get out of Clarion. If you go in as a writer open to the idea that you need to improve and that you and your classmates are all there to help each other do just that, you will get your money’s worth and then some. I know that I was a little stressed about what to expect, about whether I’d fit in (and you will no doubt be told many times that YES YOU DO FIT IN and it will not be enough times but you will end up believing it in the end, I hope), but at the same time I don’t want to tell people what to expect, mostly because everyone’s experience is going to be different.
I do have a few words of advice and I will just toss them out here as bullet points:
* Double-check your logistical arrangements to be gone from the real world for six weeks. You can’t stop reality from interrupting Clarion, but to the extent that you can minimize it, really do so.
* Take advantage of the blog to introduce yourself and meet your classmates. It doesn’t completely eliminate the “getting to know each other” period, but it does shorten it. It was great for us to show up and be able to put faces to names: “Hi, Jim! Hi, Jasmine!”
* Set yourself at least one goal before you go, something to improve in your writing or your process. But also keep yourself open to new goals. You’re going to meet seventeen awesome classmates and six awesome instructors, and the ideas and suggestions are going to come at you like tennis balls from one of those serving machines gone wild in a comedy sketch. Try something new. Don’t be afraid to fail at it.
* Share with your classmates. You guys are all there to help each other. You are a team, and you can’t add any new people to that team. If you see divisions or cliques forming, blow that up. We were a pretty lucky class in that we all got along and stayed pretty tight–not that there weren’t conflicts, but we didn’t let them fracture the class. Your support for each other will be one of the best things you come out of Clarion with.
* Learn the path to Rock Bottom and Trader Joe’s. Really. It will save your life when you can’t stand one more cafeteria meal.
And I hope all you guys have as amazing a summer as I did last year!