A long time ago, I found myself sitting among thirty others. It was a writers’ workshop. My biggest qualm was how they never offered us coffee or tea or scotch. It made me suspicious of the lot from the get-go. I battled my urge to point this out or ask for a cup of coffee myself, but I was here to write, and so I let it go. Soon began the introductions, and I knew that I was in the wrong place from that point on. Most people were there—as vulgar as that sounds—to network. They were here to make a few contacts, meet some people who write for the radio or, if they were lucky, films.
Not all of them sold out before they began, though. Some had something to say, at least, but instead of saying what they wanted to, they relied on prompts. You could hear it in the heart of the few poems they wrote, how the honest words wanted to get out. Perhaps, they thought it inconsequential of what they wanted to talk about. The prompts were crutches; they helped them avoid the blank page. Before the page swallowed them whole, they plastered the prompt on the top, neat and tidy, a one-liner in bold. A writer had no need for prompts. You wrote about what you saw and felt.
Then, I did a neat experiment; I wrote the worst sentence I could think of for the prompt. It was intentional. I was sure the man conducting it all would like it, given how he was practically just a peddler of words. My gambit worked. I was called up to read it. I was given an opportunity to work with them—on prompts. I often wonder what would have changed if I had taken it up.
At this point, I could’ve gotten up and left, but I decided instead to see it through now that I was there and they had offered us a glass of water. It was a bargain, but one often had to settle for bargains, especially when it came to other people. As the charade went on, paying no attention to the hullabaloo of snapping and clapping, I started wondering what writing was to me and how better—for the lack of a better word—did I want to be from this lot?
I settled on a simple word: honesty. I have never attended a workshop since.