One Hand Forward, One Hand Back

Last night I presented my Eight Weeks to a Complete Novel workshop at the local Arts Center as a “member only” benefit. They paid me the most money I’ve ever received for public speaking so I really wanted to do a good job.

I always worry about the tech aspect of a presentation because I’m a Mac in a PC world. When I mentioned this to the tech guy setting up, he corrected me. “You’re an OLD Mac in a PC world.” I’m pretty sure he was talking about my computer.

The tech was fine, after he worked the problem like an Apollo 13 astronaut.

I’ve presented this workshop many times, but always to groups of writers, so I was curious—and a little worried—about who was in attendance. I tried to meet everyone as they came in, but only really talked to a handful of them before I had to begin. Nobody I talked to introduced themselves as a writer.


Why were they there? What were they hoping to get out of this class? Was I going to hopelessly disappoint them and waste their time?

As I was ‘splainin things as we got started, I asked a couple questions that one or two people raised their hand for. But then I asked, “Who is trying to write a novel?” Every hand went up.

Whew. I can help these people.

I always get paranoid and worried when I’m teaching because I look out at a sea of seemingly blank or distracted faces.

They hate me. They’re bored. I’ve lost them.

Some people I can’t look at because they start to freak me out and knock me off my game. But afterward, they come up to thank me, talk about their project, excitedly tell me that something I said sparked their creativity and I’m reminded that those seemingly blank faces are not blank at all.

They’re concentrating. Taking in the waterhose of information and new ideas I’m blasting at them.

And I’m gratified. I have had so much help along my writing journey, it’s so marvelous to know that I’ve helped another writer somewhere along that path.

I remind people to always reach one hand forward asking for help, and one hand backward offering help.

We write books by ourselves. But we’re never alone.

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