4 free Brooklyn-based writing workshops to oil your mind gears

Struggling with a serious case of writer’s block, I went Google searching for a cure. At first, I got the usual list of “solutions” – go for a walk, free-write, read a book, bullet point ideas, etc. Yelling, “YOU THINK I DIDN’T TRY THAT?” at my computer screen proved unproductive. I was still stuck and in the same situation. Okay, these are all great practices but I needed something more practical. Several meltdowns later, I finally refined my search and came across Gotham Writers. Familiar with writing workshops, but never having been to one myself, I marked my calendar for their totally free Memoir Writing Workshop in Bryant Park (they also meet in Brooklyn). After just one class, my mental struggles were relieved thanks to the experienced author-instructors and their crazy helpful writing exercises. What impressed me most was everyone in the class’s willingness to share, regardless of skill level or writing experience.

It’s no easy feat to place your speedy thoughts onto paper in a format both readable and enjoyable. Plus, it’s important, healthy and human to swallow your pride and ask for help and feedback and try assigned prompts. You can gain wisdom from experienced peers and seasoned procrastinators alike while helping them in turn.

These groups give writers a place and time to meet, so there’s more commitment than you simply telling yourself you’ll edit your work tonight…tomorrow…at some point. They typically pick a genre to focus on for a few hours, start off with a free write (with the option to bring a piece of work you’ve already created) and then open up sharing for feedback. Genres include non-fiction, fiction, screenwriting (and more!). There are also some more specific groups like dialogue, grammar, professional development… the list goes on.

The below choice workshops are free or cheap. Take your pick, and write on.

Gotham Writers
Word Bookstore, Greenpoint + Bryant Park

This is one of the most established writing workshop communities in New York City. It was founded by Jeff Fingelman and David Grae in 1993; initially, they taught the workshop out of their living rooms. Today, Gotham Writers holds meetings in both Brooklyn and Manhattan. Attendees run the gamut of writers, often including some published authors, but the atmosphere remains welcoming for all. Workshops change genre monthly, and make sure to mark your calendar with the date of the next class…these events slip by.

The Brooklyn Poet’s Yawp
61 Local, Boerum Hill

The Brooklyn Poet’s Yawp is a monthly workshop-open mic hybrid that began in 2012 and is still going strong and ok, fine, it’s not TOTALLY free, there is a $5 cover. The open mic really adds to the experience by allowing poets to perform AND workshop. The workshop portion of the event will help you get some stanzas to paper: attendees are given time to bounce ideas off each other and read and edit each other’s work before presenting it to an audience. The Yawp meets the second Monday of the month from 7:30 – 9:30pm at 61 Local, a space laid out as a communal dining hall.

New York Writers Coalition
80 Hanson Place, Fort Greene

New York Writers Coalition has a lot to offer and an array of weekly gatherings. NYWC hosts many workshops and events across the borough in public libraries, including bilingual Spanish workshops. Founded in 2002, they have grown rapidly and have held more than 12,000 workshops. NYWC is drop-in friendly and provides all the materials you’ll need for your workshop. They also give writers the freedom to follow the workshop prompts or create their own. The frequency of the meetings means even the busiest bees have no excuse for not attending.

Borough wide

A social networking app and website, in this context Meetup essentially serves as a Craigslist for writing workshops. Their website hosts a variety of writing-relevant workshops and, well, meetups in and around Brooklyn. You’ll need to be approved to enter some of the groups, talking to the hosts before you’re accepted, and members enjoy everything for free. Try writing drunk and editing sober with the Writing Under the Influence group, a more intimate experience with Mini Writing Workshops where groups are limited to 5 people at a time, or a combination with Creative Writing and Acting Workshop.

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