Not necessarily because of the technicalities (like how to edit a copy, how to file a report etc) I learnt – in fact I have forgotten most of them as I didn’t pursue a mass communication career after the course - but because I heard lot of things about writing and related matters which I still remember.
Couple of weeks back, on a Sunday, I attended a creative writing workshop at British Library, Bangalore. And as I felt before attending my mass communication course many years back, I was a little skeptical about its practical value. And now after the passage of a week or so since the workshop if you ask me what I learned, you will find me telling you several things, stopping and starting again.
None of the things I heard at the workshop was really novel to me but they weren’t necessarily devoid of value. The workshop was on fiction writing, mainly novel instead of short stories. Different aspects of the novel were discussed and analyzed using Gone with the Wind by Margaret Michel as a point of reference. We were given writing exercises to do – plot building, situation development, character sketching etc.
These are not things you have to go to a workshop to learn. Nor do they promise to teach you these things. But the finer points they tell you (about things like how to properly develop a character, what goes into building a situation, how a plot progresses and so on) are important and these details help you to dispel doubts when you are not sure whether you are going in the right direction.
Reading also helps in a similar manner but the observations you make while reading are confirmed by these workshops and you feel reassured. There were also interesting discussions on writers and books. They also act as connecting points among people interested in writing and help you understand where you stand vis-à-vis others.