This is part 2 of a series on what to do if you can’t go to Clarion, which provides my thoughts on how you can capture part of the magic of Clarion—even if you can’t attend. This post is on the writing.

Write a story a week

Writing is what a writer does. If you write, you’re a writer. If you don’t write, you’re not a writer. It’s as simple as that.

Having said that, I was surprised to find that the writing wasn’t really emphasized at Clarion. We were kept terribly busy with other stuff—reading, preparing critiques, delivering critiques, listening to everyone else’s critiques, classroom instruction, hanging out with classmates, hanging out with the instructors. It was just as much of a struggle to get our writing in during Clarion as it is at home.

Surprised as I was, I came to appreciate a certain evil genius in the lack of support for getting the writing done. That a writer should write every day is standard wisdom, but what good would it do to have Clarion impose that habit? In just six short weeks we’d all be returning to the real world, where we’d have to be able to generate that habit ourselves. Having it be hard to find time for our writing even at Clarion turned out to be much more effective. We all managed—and all thereby learned the lesson that finding time for writing is simply a matter of making the writing a priority.

There’s nothing magical about a story a week. It’s just typical—if you wrote less than that, you missed out on getting a critique from one of the instructors because you didn’t have anything to turn in that week. But writing a story a week—that is, producing a complete draft of a story, ready for critique—is a challenging but achievable goal.

The writing is not the most important part of going to Clarion, but it is the most important part of being a writer. Squeezing the writing into the interstices of your six weeks is a reasonable, realistic thing to do. But it’s the next bits that make Clarion so effective at making writers better.

Part 3 of this series will be on selecting and reading stories for critique.

See the Clarion at home page for links to all the posts in this series.

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