Venturing Outside the Comfort Zone

So, I'm leading a writing workshop tonight at Postmark Cafe in Park Slope. And I'm excited! I'm also a little nervous. But mostly excited! The workshop is part of an ongoing series of events my church has been hosting. I was enlisted in January by the event coordinator to lead "something to do with writing," topic/structure of my choice. When she asked me, I was flattered and interested. Then, after I said yes, the nerves set in. This will be my first real workshop — the first I'm leading on my own. I was a TA in grad school, and ended up lead-teaching half a semester of undergrad Shakespeare when the professor had some health issues, but it's been two and a half years since that last teaching experience. I'm feeling a little rusty.

Another element that makes this both really interesting and a little nerve-wracking is that the workshop isn't entirely about writing. I'm expecting a mix of writers and non-writers. My primary goal won't be to improve the participants' writing. (Though obviously, that would be a nice side-effect!) Instead, I'm using a writing exercise to launch reflection and group discussion. I'm hoping that everyone will jump into the free-writing portion, with my guidance, and then will be willing to share what they wrote and talk about what everyone else wrote. I'm hoping, in short, not to hear crickets chirp when I'm done with the introduction and explanation portion of the evening.

So what is my workshop about? I'm going to use Joe Brainerd's I Remember as a jumping-off point for people to write their own "I remember..." stories. It's not an uncommon workshop idea. I had variations on this assignment in two different workshops in grad school, and both times, the results were really interesting and useful to me as a writer. However, because tonight's workshop has the church connection, we'll specifically look at memories related to spirituality/church/faith. I want to find commonalities and discussion points among people's memories about the turning points in their spiritual journeys, whatever those might be. Questions, concerns, and realizations. Ups, downs, and in-betweens. Certainties and doubts.

I have my lesson plan. I've made handouts. (What writing workshop is complete without handouts?) I've got my notes on what I want to be sure to say, and I've got an idea for what I'll write during the free-writing time, so I don't draw a blank when I'm trying to inspire everyone else to write. I have a handful of extra pens and a stack of notebook paper. I think I'm ready!

I have no idea how many people to expect. It's a one-time thing, and it's a Tuesday, and people have lives. I have my fingers crossed for enough people that I won't feel like I'm talking to tumbleweeds, but not so many that it doesn't feel personal. I don't know quite what that number is; I guess I'll find out. And I hope they're talkative, but not so talkative that they don't write. And I hope I'm ready to think on my feet, because I know from past teaching experiences that I'll have to!

Regardless of how it goes, I'm eager to share something that I'm passionate about — writing — in a new context. I'm grateful for the opportunity to try something new and to step outside my comfort zone, both in terms of leading a workshop, period, and in terms of the writing portion of the workshop being a means to an end, rather than the end itself. And who knows — maybe it will go so well that people will want to do it again! Fingers crossed...

Any advice from the peanut gallery for tonight?

~Kathryn :)