Thursday, 11 March 2010

Workshops and how to use them

I'm going to be contentious now so please don't take it personally. This is a general whinge.

I went to a writing workshop/group meeting the other and read out a piece, a works in progress. By which I mean, I know it's not ready yet. even reading it out loud to an audience showed up deficiances for me.

But the group, who I don't know very well, all said how lovely and which bits they liked particularly and was I going to send it out.

No, I'm not. I know it's not good enough yet. I know there's clunky words, the wrong title, iffy line endings, unnecessary repetition, laziness, wishy-washy sentiments etc etc.

The same happened with the other group members pieces as they read. I could see problems, possible areas to look at again. No one gets a poem or short story or prose piece right first time. But sometimes you're too close to a piece to see what to look at.

Isn't that what workshops are for? What's the point of saying lovely, lovely, next please?


Anonymous said...

well maybe conventional workshops are only really good for absolute beginners who need encouragement to write atall.

if you are capable of self-editing you probably don't need a workshop.

dave lordan

Dublin Dave said...

I would make a distinction between groups and workshops. A workshop is often a once-off and requires a one-stop mindset and so at its best you might get incisive critiques. Might!

A writing group is different and you can't really expect a one-stop fix. I think even the best writing groups are built up out of all sorts of dynamics beyond the professional. People know each other well or are friends etc Personally I think there are all sorts of social codes that carry forward into groups that prevent people from being too revealingly honest too soon. And that's how it works in other relationships - only people you know really well can be very frank with you. We tend to be kinder to strangers. Of course there are exceptions but I think groups aren't just about the critiques for many group members - they're also about having a supportive community. You can still get good critiques in a group but in some groups that will probably involve committing to the group and becoming a known quantity over time.

Emerging Writer said...

I think I am capable of self-editing but then I take something to a (good) workshop and someone points out something I should have seen myself, but didn't. That's what I need

Nessa O'Mahony said...

Hi there

That experience didn't sound very helpful. There really isn't much point in a group merely being there for affirmation purposes; the best ones are constructive but determined in their efforts to pick apart a work in progress to see how it ticks and whether it can tick better.

I'm a member of a monthly group where writers support each other but also firmly criticise - they're a hard group to please, but when you do please them, it feels marvellous.

Emerging Writer said...

Thanks Nessa. I don't see the point of mutual affirmation either. Maybe I should join your group!

Titus said...

In a mutually affirming way, I love this blog! Get it on the shortlist immediately.

I want criticism. That's why I mostly use friends who tell me the truth.

Anonymous said...

yes i accept the distinction between workshop and group and perhaps the role of a goiod creative writer teacher might be to, over a period of time, guide a workshop towards becoming a group.