Yesterday my husband asked me about how my writing workshop/class was going. I told him that I’d turned in my assignment, and he asked if I got a grade for it.

“I get feedback,” I said.

I realized then that I hadn’t explained exactly what this online workshop was about. For the last several years, I’d been working on a writing degree. That kind of learning, my husband understood. I read things, wrote things and received grades. Clear metrics.

This online workshop with Dean Wesley Smith is something entirely different. I’m taking the class to learn specific new writing skills. The “assignments” aren’t required, but the more I do of them, the more I’ll get out of the workshop as a whole. The Depth workshop that I’m taking is all about learning how to write better.

That’s not something I ever got out of the workshop classes I took at school. There, we read stories, wrote stories, critiqued each other’s stories and ended up with no better idea of how to improve them than we’d started with. Everyone had a dozen critics with a dozen points of view and re-writing to please any one of us would undoubtedly fail to please every other.

The last class I took at school was such a workshop class, because I couldn’t take the class that I wanted to take (work schedule conflict). I went into that class with a different kind of attitude, because I’d been reading Dean’s blog for years by that point. I wrote to please myself, and re-wrote just enough to get a satisfactory grade (okay, satisfactory by my standards is an A, so I re-wrote substantially, while treating the whole thing as an exercise).

The Depth workshop has no grades. I’m not going to get a certificate of completion or even a pat on the head for turning in all the assignments.

The proof of the value of this workshop is going to come out in what I write after I’m done. I know my writing has improved (now I get some personalized rejections) and I know it has room to improve more (they are still rejections). So can I take the information from the workshop, absorb it and let it loose in my writing? Can I make my writing better because of understanding this technique? Will my husband notice the difference?

That’s the evaluation, the proof of worth. Once the workshop is over, he’ll have to let me know.

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