Monday, July 09, 2007

Surviving a Writing Workshop

The workshop model for critiquing writing holds that we can critique one another's work for the betterment of the work. With this model, everyone reads a piece the night before, writes notes on the piece (or on the computer), and shares their notes and observations about the piece with the group. The author of the piece remains silent throughout the discussion until the very end when she may respond in some fashion.

I have developed these tips for surviving writing workshops:

Remember that My Work Isn't Perfect Just because I make a piece the best I can before the workshop does not mean that others will not find fault in it. In fact, their job is to find fault with it. They will find fault with it. Hearing what is wrong with my work is much easier if I know it's coming.

Even When A Comment Stings, It Still May Contain Truth Very often people do not have practice in diplomacy and when they make an observation about writing, an observation may not be phrased in the most tactful way. This does not mean it's not true.

Leadership Matters After a few bad workshops, I resolved never to workshop with bad leaders. I find out how different workshop leaders teach and lead before I choose to workshop with them.

Some People Are Just Assholes in Workshop Just about every workshop group that I've been in contains a person whose purpose in life is to tear apart the work of others. I consider this the mark of low self-esteem. If the leadership in a group is weak, this asshole can take over the group.

Write It All Down I write down every comment that people say while my work is being critiqued. This allows me to review the comments later when I am less vulnerable.

Respond Kindly In the moment at the end, when I have time to respond to the critique, I always thank people for critiquing my work. After all, they could have been watching TV or doing a hundred other things. I try not to respond to anything in particular because it's hard to be anything other than defensive after being critiqued for 30 to 60 minutes.

Other suggestions?