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Writing Your Story

Lesson 21 of 26

The Writing Life


Writing Your Story

Lesson 21 of 26

The Writing Life


Lesson Info

The Writing Life

We're gonna talk about the writing life. And the first thing I wanna confess to you is that I haven't had a job since 1977. Haven't had a job, haven't collected a paycheck. Was a single mother, put three children through school, so you better believe I worked hard, and I had to develop some pretty strong work habits, and self-discipline, because I never had a boss. There was nobody standing over me saying, "You'd better deliver", I just knew I did. And my work habits did not include sitting and waiting for the muse. I always knew I had to get up in the morning and tell a story, and I wanted to do it well. And from a pretty early stage, I really recognized, quite apart from need to earn my living, a responsibility to readers. And I have never, never forgotten that part, that what I do, and what you do, as a writer, is only half of the job, really. The other part is what the reader does. The person who takes in your story, and gives over their time and their trust. You take their hand, y...

ou say, "Let me lead you along on this journey", and you'd better make it worthwhile for them, and not cheat them, and tell them only part of what the actual truth was. So I'm gonna begin with a little bit of a description of how I go about it, and it won't all apply to you. So take what is useful, and discard the rest. I have a series of rituals, and they're very important to me because so much of what I do is uncharted territory. So if there are just a few things, I will never buy ground coffee because that would deprive me of one of my precious rituals, which is grinding the coffee in the morning. And again, that's not gonna be the magic bullet that will make your writing suddenly lyrical, and successful, and moving, and powerful. But it is important, when you wander into this dark wood, that you have a few things to hold onto.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Everyone’s got a story to tell. Some are funny. Some are inspiring. Others are tragic. But no matter how compelling your story might seem, it won’t resonate with readers unless you’re able to effectively translate your concept onto the page.

Celebrated journalist, novelist and memoirist Joyce Maynard will give you the tools you need to transform your brilliant idea into an absorbing memoir that readers won’t be able to put down.

Maynard will begin by walking you through the process of identifying your story and how best to tell it. She’ll then help you develop your story through language, story structure, dramatic tension, dialogue, description and editing. Finally, she’ll address the challenges of the writing life, such as how to create a productive practice, design a comfortable writing space, deal with rejection and find an audience.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Understand the difference between telling what happened and exploring your journey.
  • Figure out what to include in your story and what to cut out.
  • Decide on a point of view, a point of entry and a structure.
  • Get over your fears of revealing embarrassing truths about yourself.
  • Stop worrying about being judged.
  • Deal with loneliness and find your tribe.
  • Develop the arc of a sentence, a paragraph and a story.
  • Listen to the sound and rhythm of your sentences.


Annie Y

Joyce Maynard will meet her writing students exactly where many of us find ourselves stranded: at that point in the road where our creative impulse and need for expression begins to lose breath but our sense of story and good writing habits may falter. Her teaching is a glorious, energetic, engaged alchemy of encouragement, permission for wild creativity, and feet-on-the-ground, pencil-to-paper, lessons for organizing and writing your own story. I left this incredible day empowered to tell mine, and totally unafraid to let go of what does not fit into the narrative. She gives concrete examples of good writing, shows you exactly why it's good, as well as hilarious bits of not-so-good writing. Yes, this is a memoir class, but the lessons are simply excellent rules for good writing. The syllabus is ambitious, but Ms. Maynard's practical magic is her gift to render all of this utterly do-able. I loved every minute, left inspired by the entire experience, and profoundly grateful for her wisdom and humor. Thank you!

Diane Shipley

This was a wonderful class, the best I’ve taken, even though I wasn’t there in person! Joyce is an inspiring teacher who makes you feel like your stories matter and guides you toward identifying which narratives to tell and how best to tell them — very few writing classes delve into the mechanics in this way and I really appreciated it. I also appreciated some of her more unusual advice — like that it’s important to think about what you want to write, sometimes for a long time, before you start. By going through students’ stories and providing lots of examples of the principles she teaches, you can see how to adapt the lessons to your own work, and I’ve already started doing so. I also found Joyce very compassionate about issues around privacy and shame and everything that comes up when people share personal stories, and very generous in sharing her own experiences so it’s clear she knows what she’s talking about. I recommend this class wholeheartedly.


Thank you so much for your brilliant course, Joyce Maynard. I am blown away by how much I've learned from you, and how warmly and joyfully you've imparted your wisdom, your skills as a writer and your own beautiful humanity. I am so grateful for this experience. You are not only a gifted storyteller, but a truly gifted teacher, and a delightful, inspiring human being. I hope to learn from you in person in Lake Atitlan at some point in the future.