For today’s post I thought I’d crack open the door a tiny bit and give you a quick glimpse at my life at my new school. Granted, this glimpse is kind of negative, but I promise it gets more positive at the end so just stay with me! Potential life lesson to be learned!
So, as most or all of you know, I’m an English and Creative Writing student. I’m obviously a reader but also a writer, although I don’t do near enough of it (petition to add more hours in a day?? Maybe???). So not the point though!
Because I’m a creative writing major, I take classes on . . . Writing. I know, crazy. So I’m currently in 2 writing classes, one is a foundations class that is required although at my last university I already took a class pretty much just like it but apparently it didn’t transfer over. Whatever. It’s an introductory class on sort of all forms of writing, although I say ALL FORMS loosely because I’m not sure we’ll be getting into like screen writing or play writing or anything like that. I’m talking the basics: fiction, nonfiction, poetry.
In pretty much all writing classes you do workshops. For those who don’t know, workshopping is when you are assigned/sign up for a date to turn in a piece of work. Some workshops have requirements, some don’t, it just depends on the workshop honestly. For this particular workshop, we could pretty much turn in whatever we wanted. I’m not going to go into really any detail at all about what I turned in, other than to say it was a nonfiction piece that I’ve been working diligently on for a year now and am very proud of. A professor at my last university even had looked at it and given me notes on it, basically workshopped it for me during her office hours. She loved it and gave me options about directions I could go with it.
So I felt confident about the piece, all 13 pages of it, and I decided to get it workshopped For Real. I’ve been in workshops in the past, and in my nonfiction writing seminar we’ve already started workshopping, and a general rule of thumb (at least I THOUGHT) is to kind of have a “love round” and a “critique round” both of which can look and sound pretty different depending on the workshop. At my last university, and in my nonfiction seminar, we all sat in a circle (common for workshops and writing classes in general) and we went around the room noting things about the piece that we loved or that we felt was working really well. Then there’d be a critique round, where we go around taking turns making suggestions or mentioning things we’re confused about or think could be done differently or want clarification on, anything critique-ish. But generally there is a very clear LOVE ROUND INVOLVED.
In this other workshop, I volunteered to go on the first day of workshop, because I’ve done it before and I genuinely enjoy the experience. I always come out feeling better about my piece, because I now know not only what is clearly working but also what probably isn’t, and I’ve been given ideas on how to fix the problems and amp up the stuff that’s good. Well, I already feel like I’m rambling here so I’ll just cut to the chase and say that there was absolutely no love round, this workshop was a bash-Hayden’s-writing session, and I cried.
Obviously I didn’t cry during the workshop, because I’m not a total wimp. Honestly it hadn’t even hit me yet. But everyone spent the entire time basically giving me a list of things that were absolutely not working for the piece, and some of the advice and suggestions I was given didn’t really feel right for the piece at all. Of course, you’re not required to take anyone’s suggestions, but if the general consensus says one thing then it’s probably a good idea to listen. But there WAS no “general consensus” on anything, because everyone just took turns saying things that weren’t working and we never really lingered on any one concept.
There was one girl, ONE GIRL, who took the time to mention something she thought was working with the piece. But sadly I can’t even remember what it was. I think it might have been a rebuttal against something someone else had said they didn’t like, but I don’t even remember. Ugh. I wish I did.
The point is, there was no version of a “love round.” The instructor also didn’t really direct anyone in that, well, direction, either. It was just a black hole that I kept getting sucked into. And then I was handed back all the notes and annotations of everyone and we moved on to the next person. And then I came back to my apartment and took the pile out and stared at it and sat on my bed and cried for a few minutes. Like, ugly cried.
It’s not that I can’t take criticism. I totally can, believe it or not. I’ve actually already glanced over some of the notes of my peers on the piece, but I haven’t had time yet to really dive in. And I know I’m not perfect, and that my writing isn’t perfect. In fact, this blog post is probably riddled with errors, which irks me when I see it on other people’s posts but don’t bother to fix them on my own. I know I’m not perfect, and I know there will always be something to critique.
My problem, friends, is that writers are fragile. Maybe not all writers, but I can speak for most beginners when I say we’re like delicate flowers who need protection from torrential wind and rain, but do still need oxygen and water to survive. That was so lame. What I’m saying is, I need the critique, I don’t want to be sheltered from it. But, I also need to know what is working in my writing. That’s just as important as knowing what’s NOT working. Right? Not just for my sanity and my feelings and my mental health, but also just for the piece itself. If I don’t know what’s working, it might get cut out, and then where does that leave me?
And I know for a FACT that most of that piece was working. Call that conceited, but I know it. I know there are critiques to be made, and I’ll take them as I see them and consider them and maybe throw some of them away because some of these people just didn’t seem to get where I was going, but I also know that the majority of that piece was awesome and I’m still proud of it.
I just may be a little insane now. But what writer needs sanity, anyway? So overrated.
Have you had a bad workshop experience? Or rather, have you had any workshops that have been SUPER helpful? I’d love to hear about them!