First: I got into Clarion UCSD from the waitlist this week. If you’ll indulge me for just a moment while I do a Kermit flail around the apartment.
*ahem* Now, with that caveat in mind, let me just say that absolutely no one NEEDS to go to these workshops to be a real writer. In this past week I’ve heard about some noxiously toxic shit being flung at my friends who for one reason or another cannot go to these things. Now, granted, I have not yet gone to Clarion and there are any number of reasons why, having gotten in, I might not be able to go. But I have gone to Viable Paradise which is, from everything I’ve heard, a shorter version of the same (with jellyfishies!).
The thing about workshops is at they are ultimately a speeded up version of building your writing toolbox. On top of that, and I would argue much more importantly, you will inadvertently create a network of writer friends. These are both things that you can absolutely do from the comfort of your own home. It will most likely take longer than it does in the concentrated burst that is a workshop, but sometimes it can’t be helped.
Not going to a workshop is never about a lack of commitment to the craft. I am immensely privileged in having a situation that allows me to do these things. I live in Finland and have a steady job, which means I don’t really pay for my healthcare and have five weeks of paid vacation every year. I have an aptitude and manage to find joy in a profession that pays well enough that I have the disposable income to travel and pay thousands of Euro for a workshop, with a partner similarly situated. Granted, going to Clarion will eat up a huge chunk of our savings and neither of us will likely take a traveling vacation for a couple of years after, but me going to Clarion will not bankrupt us. Which is more than can be said for a lot of folks who deserve to go just as much or more than I do.
There’s this tendency to pretend that Western societies are meritocracies where your level of fame and fortune is solely dependent on your willingness to work hard for your goals. To some extent that may be true. I’ve been poor. One of John Scalzi’s most popular blog posts of all time is about is about the experience of poverty. Cat Valente and Seanan McGuire both have been very open about their own histories with poverty. But these stories are the exception rather than the rule. After I went through the Finnish system, politicians have made changes to it that make it harder for the people coming behind me to do the same thing. Not because of me, you understand, but because of the economy.
And this is the sadness of privilege. Imagine the talent the world may be losing because the talent is inside people who, for mostly structural reasons, are not able to flourish, despite every effort or sacrifice made. For my part, I’m going to give my all, aware of the fact that so many others can’t do the things, and keep donating to things that help those talented people reach.
If you want to help:
- Clarion Write-a-thon
- Con or Bust
- Science Fiction Writers of America Emergency Medical Fund
- The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship (also the Carl Brandon society in general)
If you know other similar targets for donations, please feel free to share in the comments.