Planning and Writing Writing Resources

What I Learned From A Brooke Warner Workshop

“Giving Voice to What Matters”

It’s a new year, and with that comes goals and aspirations. I have many regarding my writing, and I want to stick to them, have them come to fruition. Sometimes I am my worst enemy, but there are plenty of people out there to light up the path and show me the way. I have learned to listen.

This year I want to:

Finish the rough draft of my first memoir by the end of February. Then do all the editing, beta readers, agent? Publisher? – I have goals, let’s see what I can get done.

And, I need to write the second memoir. They go back to back.


It will not be an easy road by all means. I am unknown, and I have been working on this for the past ten months. Creeping along, becoming stronger.

I know I am participating in a big learning curve. Right now, so much is confusing to me. But I have lots of wonderful help. I will get to where I am supposed to be with:

  • conviction
  • practice
  • consistency
  • patience
  • and courage

These were the 5 Things Brooke Warner talked about in her ZOOM workshop yesterday afternoon.  “Five Things I’ve Learned About Giving Voice To What Matters In The New Year.”

I am digging Brooke. I have listened to several podcasts of hers in the last few weeks and am impressed with the straightforward conversation she brings forth about writing and the writer’s life. She has written several books and is the publisher of She Writes Press and Spark Press. She knows what she is talking about, is encouraging and forthright. If you have time to hear her speak, grab that opportunity. By the end of the session, you will feel pumped up and ready to tackle anything. This workshop was based on her popular book Write On, Sisters!: Voice, Courage and Claiming Your Place at the Table

With every workshop, podcast, blog post, group, and social media post I find, people are encouraging me and I am learning all the time. I have found acceptance for myself and my story, something I have always been searching for.

I write about my life with Bipolar 1, ADHD, and Eating Disorders and how I have learned to be my best self despite their challenges. If you have a story I encourage you to write fearlessly about your experiences and add to the dialogue about mental health and mental illness. Let’s break the damn stereotypes. Let’s stop hiding and feeling guilty.

Perhaps the following exercise will help you on your way.

Now, into the workshop. (from my notes and paraphrased)

Conviction – as Brooke talks about it, is a sense that you have something to say, and it matters. It is a powerful force driving you to do your project. A loss of conviction can be about FEAR – we all have that “I am not good enough” message we tell ourselves. But conviction is the opposite. So, what does your conviction feel like? What message do you have? Conviction can shift from one passion to the other. You need to give it the capacity to go out into the world. It is not a singular message. Don’t let it go. Are you the one to carry this message? What are you scared of? You need to believe in yourself and the message and stop the inner critic.

She asks: What does conviction mean to you? 

I answered – I am 100% committed to bringing my story out into the world and offer another perspective on the popular stereotypes of mental illness. My goal is to join in the growing conversation about what is mental health/illness. I believe in my story and my delivery. It is in some ways a mishmash, a missing of the rules that reflect how my life with mental illness has played out. It wasn’t cookie cutter and is kind of like the stock market; debilitating lows, stable middles, and uncontrollable highs. I am aware of how I must step back occasionally to regroup, and I am writing about my process on this writer’s blog so that others with similar quests can learn from my “mistakes” and “growths.” I learn more every day. I’d like to encourage women, in particular, to add their voices and writing to the conversation. I got over the “I’m not good enough” thoughts. After 60 years of doubts and breakdowns, I am in a brilliant headspace and am good enough for me. And that can pull me through anything.

Practice (Brooke) what does your practice look like regarding giving voice and sharing it with the world. What do you consistently do for your message? Social media. Interviews. Blogs. Conversations. What is your content when speaking about things? Are you consistent over time? Thematically. Encapsulate your message. Be succinct. Practice your message. You might need another person’s perspective. That’s ok.

She asks – What is your current relationship with practice?

(Me) I believe I am consistent in what my message is and am constantly reiterating how much my life has changed once I did the work on it and moved to a different environment. I also practice by talking about changes that can be done in mental health fields to bring passion and joy back to people who have given up. I talk about my history and write about it on blog posts, Facebook pages, in groups, etc. I am consistent. PODCAST?? – might need to look into. Practice how to be a professional with your message. YouTube? Yipes

Consistency(Brooke) What is your message? and are you projecting that with consistency? What is your Author Platform? How are you building your platform? Cultivating your readership? ALL social media. Do you have a clear idea of what you are doing? Get clear on the message and schedule getting it out there. Don’t be afraid of being in a niche. Master the subject and keep talking about it. Be the go-to person on resilience, overcoming trauma, etc. How you move through …. What do you want your reader to get out of your book? What is in it for the reader?  (The Morning Glory Project – I need to check this out again)  Theme/Platform/Niche but don’t pigeonhole. Readers expect you to give them consistency. Must sustain your project/message. Look cumulatively – what is the result you are working towards? Personal essay – publication, a great way to get your message out.

(Jane Smiley – wrote 2 hours every day, check out her interview with Brooke)

What is your relationship with consistency?

WOW, this is it. THE thing to work on. I have so many things going on in a week that I sometimes get lost on what the week’s goal is. I schedule workshops, writing sprints, blog time. But I need to stick to it. I am really liking my blog, but I have not been posting at the same time/day. I need to sit down (carry my phone and use notes) and write a list of post topics (Ria Talken Writes) so they are handy to work on. Set targets and post weekly or bi-weekly. Try both and determine which is best for a habit. Don’t neglect posts for Our Prime Of Life. Many of the topics apply to both blogs. Post on Facebook groups more consistently with a firm message theme, idea, suggestion. Write every single day. Stick to the writing sprints. Work on one extra scheduled thing a day. My message is consistent. But my practice is not. Narrow things down!! First Book and Second – have a consistency to them, just presented in two different ways.

Patience(Brooke) Patience is hard. We want to rush things through, show an accomplishment. Get things published now! Take too many classes and dive in to the deep end. Need to get famous. STOP and breath. (Mark Nipo) Write even when no one is listening. Even without likes and comments. Focus on the building. Keep writing, your day will come. Don’t give up. Be in the creative world but understand results will all take time. We all want validation, realize you may not be getting it while you are doing. Take care to validate yourself. Stick with your clear message again. It needs to be something you will tend even if no one else is. We are growing up with our writing and message. Love your book – your “being. “ Be in a relationship with your growing. “Build it and they will come?” Keep building and tending. In for the long haul.  Cultivate.

What is your relationship with patience?

I am typically not a patient person. With my writing, I started out the gate too fast and crashed in my Bipolar/ADHD mind. BUT, after faltering I could pull back, I know it is going to take time. I know I have to learn about the business while becoming one with my writing and my goals. Don’t be afraid to put the brakes on. There is time. Don’t force things to happen too fast. I am not ready for everything yet. This is all new to me. I need to build my foundation. I can only make a first impression once. Have my ducks in a row. I am actually learning a lot about patience and am proud of myself. I am slowly getting to my goal and doing the things I need to get done for the big picture. And I am consistently working on every facet of my message. Go back and read my earlier posts. Lessons are in there. I am retired. I am not looking for a new full-time job. Enjoy the process.

Courage(Brooke) Check out Write on Sisters – book. Courage as Voice. What is voice? What voice do you have to find? Exposing to put your work out into the world. Believe in your heart you can do this. Why do you have shame about your work? Humiliation is part of being a writer. Every person who puts their writing out into the world can be terrified. Vulnerability helps you know you are on the right track. Normal feeling. Put self out there in all of your truth. Feeling of fear. Memoir is courageous. Scary. Acknowledge our courage. Claim your courage.

What is your relationship with courage?

I got this one. Every day, I know that I have made it to the other side of homelessness, mental breakdown, being broke financially, and with a broken mind and body. Courage is not my problem. I believe in myself. I am not going back to the abyss. I can offer hope to others. I know what it means to fall down and break. But I forced myself back. I searched for help in 6 counties and finally found it. I have courage and fortitude. I am powerful. I am honest. I am a bit scared of the things I do not know or have yet to experience, but the path has pebbles of information strewn all over it. I am gathering them in my toolbox. Writing, Editing, Publishing – there are people all around me to help and guide me. I am not alone. I am courageous about life. Life is writing.

In the end, what do you feel is your strongest? What is the weakest? What do you need to cultivate? 

My weakest is consistency. If I can settle down, focus, and stick to a schedule and a list, I can improve and stay in a routine. My butt in a chair is the way to get this done. Work smart and don’t over-schedule and burn out. Believe and focus on the message.

My strength is my courage. COVID came, and I found a mission. This year I attempted something new and learned. I have changed. I know I am stronger than I gave myself credit for in the past. COVID has been a silver lining. I am no longer a tree that can be felled by adversity. I will no longer hide myself. I will no longer give my illness that power. I am writing about warts and all. I am standing straight,  my feet firmly planted and surrounded by friends, well-wishers, and the writing family I have created. I got this.

I need to cultivate my peeps and work on my platform. Watch, you will be seeing more of me. And, when you do, please follow, comment and encourage.

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  • Reply
    Rica Keenum
    January 19, 2021 at 6:33 pm

    I also participated in Brooke’s workshop, and I found it to be very inspiring. The energy of the crowd, even over the Zoom platform, was uplifting and it made me think I should get involved in more of these things. I tend to isolate and hide myself in the cozy confines of my comfort zone. Time for change in 2021! Glad to have met you, Ria! We seem to have a lot in common, I see as I peruse your website.

    • Reply
      Ria Talken
      January 19, 2021 at 7:10 pm

      Ah, excellent. I am doing her 5-day workshop next week which looks interesting. Breaking your comfort zone is difficult to do but you will never know what will happen till you try. Maybe your comfort zone will simply expand. If you want an easy-going writing group to join check out The Creative Academy for Writers. They have a new memoir group in the genre groups. And several one-hour accountability sprints a day. Very low key. Some great offerings.

  • Reply
    Margie Hord
    January 18, 2021 at 9:02 pm

    I appreciate your openness, and the fact that you are finishing one memoir and planning another!!

    • Reply
      Ria Talken
      January 19, 2021 at 6:57 am

      Thank you, Margie, at first I tried to just write one, but there was too much material and I determined the first one had to end with me driving off homeless. The second picks up there and talks about how I got out of the mess. As for being open, I finally got to that point that I am no longer going to feel guilty or ashamed for having a mental illness. So I am writing – warts and all.

  • Reply
    January 17, 2021 at 5:07 pm

    You continue to impress re: your industriousness and your candidness. Write, write, write…ok…then write some more. 🙂

    • Reply
      Ria Talken
      January 17, 2021 at 5:20 pm

      Thank you, Barbara!! You know, in this day and age, when everyone seems to be out for one another and only interested in themselves, I am constantly impressed with the warmth and encouragement I have received throughout my writing process. I get tears all the time as I get waves of goodwill from those around me. For someone who had to hide a lot of who she was and try hard to fit in the mainstream, I feel blessed with the friends I have made.

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