Oh hi. I’m a shitty example.
Last month I was in Italy, teaching 30 people that there’s always something to write about.
I even passed around a printed guide I wrote called The Art Of The Start (How To Start Writing Anything). I got everyone writing.
And then there are the Real Housewives episodes to catch up on, and extra workouts to undo all the pasta. (It’s one thing in the south of Italy, where it’s all seafood and tomato sauce. But we were in Bologna, where before you even get the pasta they fry the bread and then give you sliced lardo to put on it. What’s lardo, you ask? Imagine just the white part of the ham. It’s essentially meat butter.)
One of the tips I give my students is, when you have nowhere to start, pretend you’re answering a question on a survey, or a question from a friend. So let’s pretend I didn’t wait all that time, and I’m just answering the question, “How was your teaching thing in Italy?”
Glad you ask. I’ll tell you, in a series of notes:
1) “Um, yes?” is the new “Go for it.”
Italy was a dream. Except I never dared dream it.
If I’d ever fantasized, “One day I want to lead a writing workshop for 30 creative people high above the sparkling turquoise water of the Ligurian Coast, in an ancient castle equipped with Powerpoint,” even my wild subconscious would’ve slapped sense into me.
Bianca, a friend and client I’d met through B-School, asked me if I’d ever want to teach a workshop in Italy. For money. We’d write the sales page together, promote it together, and she’d take care of the rest. As in, all the stuff I would never want to do: scout a venue, set up group dinners, process payments, order snacks, put flower arrangements on tables, help that one person who got stuck with a rude byotch of an AirBnB host switch accommodations.
All I’d have to do, once we sold it, was get up there (by climbing many, many steps) and teach.
Um, yes is my M.O.
I got my first real job after college, the job that led to all the other jobs, because I was the one still home — and sleeping, which I denied — when a friend called around at 11 am looking for fact checkers for a famous author.
This is how I achieve.
Not by “going for it” and making it all happen so much as by saying, “Yeah, sure, count me in.”
Sometimes, it works.
2) You can never have too many examples.
My attendees were as thirsty for concrete examples as I was for water.
(I went through like, 8 bottles a day. I know, I know, the plastic! How does the President get through his State of the Union without chugging from a giant, sports-nozzle Smart Water?)
After my first and second days teaching, I stayed up late under my typical-Italian hotel bedspread (floral, acrylic) creating new slide presentations filled with copywriting before-and-afters. People wanted to see more, more more.
3) In-person events rock.
Online courses are great. But you can’t beat the energy of a bunch of people together in a room, from Europe, Australia, the Fiji Islands and Long Island, all having said yes to the most random of offers: Come write for your business and drink a bunch of wine in Cinque Terre, Italy.
5) Details make goosebumps.
Specific details are my favorite writing tool. If my 3 days of teaching had a theme, it was…Day 1: DETAILS. Day 2: DETAILS. Day 3: Yup, DETAILS.
The people who raised their hands to read their stuff out loud at the end — from a wedding photographer’s new “Work With Me” intro about the bride’s last dance of the night, to a memory piece about a grandparent’s plastic-covered couch — got spontaneous claps from the group and a standing O from my arm hair.
“I strongly suggest you reconsider the gender policy of your Italy class,” he told me repeatedly. I’d made it all-women.
“Why?” I asked the first time. I knew better the next.
“So that I can teach it. I wrote NUMEROUS freelance articles for newspapers and magazines in the 1960s.”
He wasn’t joking. After I posted pictures from the workshop…
7) I suck at the fake-laugh pose
There’s a thing where you’re supposed to pretend you’re laughing when you pose for photos. I look ridiculous in all of those.
My husband says I’m visually unobservant. He’ll rearrange the living room on Monday and it won’t be till Friday that I say, “Hey, where’s the couch?”
I spent 3 days in this space. Ask me if I ever once noticed the giant fresco behind me of vineyard workers harvesting their grapes. Nope. Just spotted that now.
Are you a “Go for it” or an “Um, yes?”
Or, other, very different question: Got a favorite place in Italy?
TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS.
*Except where indicated, all photos by the wonderful Azzurra Biagi