The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Back to School– Day 10

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It’s a funny thing, writing.  It’s done by funny people, and those funny people oft times do funny things.  For example:

We swapped professors for the advanced fiction workshop at the start of this week.  This was by design as the program administrators have capitalized on the chance to expose us to as many professional writers and different points of view as possible.  So the prof we had last week graciously bowed out, and a new one came in.  While she was introducing herself and asking what can be done to help things run smoothly, an interesting discussion came up.  One of my classmates took the opportunity to impugn the methods by which the program is administered.  He went on to not only advertise the lineage of teaching in his blood line (as if that somehow qualified him to speak), but was insistent on something he would do at the start of a writing workshop if he was in charge.  Seems he would distribute several paragraphs of literature taken from unidentified but respected authors and have individuals identify the author of each and respond to a series of questions about the passages so he could determine who is capable of understanding what and who has the most (and hence most respectable) knowledge of writers and writing.

It was a thin disguise for his unhappiness.  He had his piece workshopped early last week and appears to be hard-bitten about the feedback he got (though I found a lot to like with his writing and noted such).  He might as well have been stomping his feet and crying, “You people don’t understand me!”

You sometimes suffer through such people in writing workshops.  I’ve suffered a few boors who couldn’t take criticism, who dished out heaps of unjustified criticism, who disregarded all arguments about logic and craft because they had already made up their mind…  the list goes on.  I’ve seen a few people leave a workshop in a huff because their egos weren’t stroked the right way.  That’s not the way it’s done.  If your workshop is going that way, quit.  You’d be better off working on your own.

The professor pointed out a few things, and she was completely right.  The workshop environment should ideally contain a wide range of ages, ability levels, and literary experiences.  All those things come together to provide workshop members a comprehensive critique of their work.  We all bring different views and experiences to what we read, and that makes the whole experience a lot richer.  You get a lot of unexpected feedback, lots of which is usable stuff as you continue to shape and polish your work.  If somebody is stomping his feet and crying, “You people don’t understand me!”, there’s a good chance that he’s the problem.  He’s not giving the reader enough to understand.

It seems that my contemporary forgot workshop rule #1:  Feedback serves the writing, not the writer.  I fight the same battle with my high school creative writers.  They get pissed at me for comprehensive critiques.  Some respond by shutting down or pouting.  But they’re high school students and I’m much more apt to work with that.

I ran a quick fantasy scenario through my mind seconds after my contemporary vented his spleen:  I would love for him to come to an English department meeting at my school and push the same agenda.  He would have been shot down fast and hard for such a bogus attempt at elitism.

My contemporary will be gone at the end of this session.  I don’t think I’ll miss him.

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Written by seeker70

July 14, 2011 at 12:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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