Did you know that a restaurant cannot call mozzarella sticks ‘mozzarella sticks’ unless they contain actual mozzarella. Otherwise, they’re just ‘cheese sticks.’ I heard that from someone and I have no idea if it’s true. I mean, it’s like the whole ‘chicken wings’ vs. ‘chicken wyngz’ controversy. Anyway, iHOP serves ‘Mozza Sticks’ so I have absolutely no idea what to make of that.
Every Wednesday evening, a group of dedicated writers of all experiences, gather in a small community building at a local park and workshop their writing. I have been attending this workshop for the last five years or so. I cannot begin to tell you how much this group and this process have helped me grow as a writer. I recommend workshopping to every writer, no matter what level of “success” you’ve reached, no matter how many books you’ve written, no matter how many rejections you’ve received. (I’ve come to redefine success for myself, but that’s a whole other blog post.)
Anyway, about Mozzarella Sticks... Oftentimes, after workshop, some of the members go to a local iHOP to eat and discuss writing, life, and bad B movies. And nine times out of ten, mozzarella sticks, I’m sorry, Mozza Sticks ™ are ordered for the table by a generous workshop member. This is where conversation becomes less formal… way, way less formal. We’re just, dare I say, friends, colleagues, weirdos united by a common passion and lacking other people to talk to about this thing that we’re really, really excited about.
Some of the absolute best advice I’ve received about my own writing and writing career has been delved out over fried cheese and stacks of pancakes and coffee on sticky tables and in a back corner of an iHOP at midnight.
At that hour, the place is pretty slow. The employees are rolling silverware for the next morning, the people working nightshifts are taking a meal break, the weary college student is hunched over a laptop in a booth trying to finish an assignment. And we’re cackling like idiots over things that only make sense in the moment.
That’s my favorite kind of conversation, the kind that only exists by chance, that doesn’t carry much weight or importance in the real world, but means everything at the time.
You see, workshop is where the writing advice gets hashed out, the critique is given, the methods and craft are discussed in a more academic way. iHOP is where I find reasons to keep writing.
Now I’m getting too sentimental. Ack! Gross! It’s not like that. Not much of what is discussed is of any consequence at all. But the community it builds is everything.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you want to be a writer, a good writer, get you some people who a) also write b) tell you the truth c) like hanging out with you. It’s fairly simple to get people, the main requirement—don’t be an asshole. Truly. That’s it. Most people like hanging out with nice people.
People don’t like hanging out with people who:
1.Are overly critical
2.Are smug or arrogant
3.Who only want to talk about themselves or their own writing
4.Who lack basic manners
The writing community is a special group of people and it’s hard to scare us off. Believe me… you’re not too weird, too nerdy, too shy, too open, too anything for fellow writers to bring you into the fold.
Yes, I do see how this is starting to sound like a cult. I mean, I wrote a book about a cult and this is definitely not a cult ;)
It’s important to have places where your writing is taken very seriously, like a workshop—and it’s equally important to have a place where your writing is on the back-burner and you, as a writer, as a human being, don’t take yourself too seriously at all. It’s okay to let your book ideas simmer over a plate of fried cheese and good conversation.