Workshop Blues

Last Saturday, I woke up early to attend Malate Literary Folio’s Mini Workshop. I got invited a month ago and at first I was hesitant to say yes. I haven’t written anything in 5 years nor have I read any short stories in a while. It made me think if I am still credible to critique works in that nature. However, not wanting to immediately turn down an opportunity to teach, I asked for my friend’s advise on teaching and attending this workshop. My friend posed me this question, “Would you miss an opportunity to learn?”

The bad weather didn’t stop us from continuing the workshop. DLSU already suspended the classes and we were left with the question “Where are we going to bring the workshop?” Francis (MLF Prose Editor), Arun (my co-panelist) and I decided to move the workshop to a much safer venue where we can focus. We ended up going to Cafe Breton Greenbelt where we stayed the whole day.

I listed down 6 things I learned from this particular workshop experience. Every workshop is different after all.

1.) A platform makes all the difference.
As far as I can remember, all the workshops I attended had the same format. Workshop panelists sit together, elevated a little through an actual platform. Since I never experienced a workshop outside of a classroom, I didn’t know that it would make such a big difference in terms of panelist-fellow interaction. Most of the time, fellows feel scared by merely seeing their panelists. What more if they started talking? If I was going to rate the workshop format last weekend, I’d give it a 9 out of 10. Being able to sit beside the fellows, having that chance to get to know each of them, having that opportunity to brainstorm with them made me, as a panelist and a learner, enjoy the workshop so much.

2.) There is no such thing as “I am too old for this.”
I forgot how much I enjoyed being in a workshop. It doesn’t matter if I was a fellow or a panelist. The experience is for all writers. No writer is too old or too young to experience such.

3.) Learning can happen anywhere, as long as you are willing to learn.
It was raining so hard last Saturday and we were at that point where we wanted to postpone the workshop because of the circumstances. But somehow, we made it past the actual storm and that brewing anticipation inside of us. All 5 fellows were present. It felt nice to see people go out of their way to pursue learning despite the bad weather, the fear of getting stranded among other things.

4.) Listening through body language is on equal footing with actual listening. 
I have met people who are good at listening but I have yet to meet a person who is actually good at listening through body language. In my recent social studies, I have learned that listening is not just about hearing out another person, it also transcends to what the body is actually saying without saying anything. I have learned, by observing the fellows, that it is important for them to have panelists who will ‘listen’ to their actions and hopefully see through it.

5.) Be yourself. People know if you’re wearing a mask. 
Being part of a sales team for almost 4 years, I can say that this is the single greatest line that I will never forget when it comes to selling. I learned after the workshop that this line actually applies to all things. Before the workshop, I asked myself, “Who am I going to be today?” Am I going to be the strict panelist who will not show any mercy? Should I scare them off? Should I challenge their writing by being negative about their works? When everyone else was seated, Arun and I started talking and we didn’t find the time to actually think of who we were going to be. I came as myself and presented my knowledge on the subject accordingly. I did not put on a mask. The fellows did the same and they contributed to the best of their ability. It turned out to be even better than what we expected.

6.) Your ideas matter.
It doesn’t matter if people think you have crazy out of this world ideas. Write it down so you won’t forget it. Once in a while, go back to your idea and dissect it. The greatest stories come from the craziest and the most mundane ideas. Your best story is yet to come.

To all the fellows, here is my short message to you. I wrote it down a couple of days ago but forgot to attach it in the manuscript. 

Dear MLF Fellows,

Read. More importantly, read with an open mind. Take mental notes. Take down actual notes. 

Write. Write everyday. Write religiously. Write for no reason at all. Write when you’re happy. Write when you’re sad. Write when you’re scared. Write. Because there is no other way to be great at writing unless you write.

Live. Live your life, never the life of others. If Experience is the best teacher, be your own Teacher and experience things. 

P.S. In the words of my writing mentor, “I don’t care what you write about as long as you write it well.”

More stories,

Pao :) 

Congrats to all the fellows! I want to read your works soon. 

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