Friday, January 23, 2015

Taking It On The Chin #amwriting

Today I was doing the prep work for my creative writing class on Monday. In addition to the lecture on poetry and imagery, I was also trying to prepare them for workshop.

Mind you, most of them have never participated in a workshop before. They have no idea what it means to look at another student's work and offer valuable feedback. And while I definitely want to start with the logistics: what to look for, how to convey your impressions kindly, and so on--I also want to make it clear that there are limitations to workshop, and it will require a great deal of honesty with oneself and good listening skills to discern exactly what can be done to improve one's own work.

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” --Neil Gaiman

A person may understand that something is wrong with a passage:
"It sounds funny."
"I'm not sure what is going on here."
"I don't like this character. He doesn't seem like a real person."
"Why are there space vampires looking for lemons in the supermarket?"

But the same person will likely have no idea what exactly rubs them the wrong way, or how to fix it. Also, there is certainly danger of  overkill. People can be so desperate to offer feedback, that they tell you all the things:

The desecration of the Dickinson poem as seen above, commonly happens in writer workshops. Never mind the fact that poor Emily, had she ever been so ruthlessly assessed by a room of strangers, may not have ever written another poem in her life, and American poetry would've suffered a sad loss. (Or she did attend workshop and that is why she became such a recluse!).

My job Monday will be to make it clear that despite the flaws and dangers of such an undertaking, feedback from a room full of people who have read your work can be very valuable in taking it to the next level. So wish me luck!

But furthermore, for those of us in the trenches who long ago had the innocent dew shaken from our leaves, it might do us well to remember that as Gaiman said, we must take the good with bad and embrace all the ways the universe tries to guide us into being that bigger, better, version of ourselves. Even if the universe is speaking through the mouthpiece of an awkward, college freshman who doesn't know what the #$&*%* (s)he is talking about. ;)

No comments:

Post a Comment