I loved being in a writing group for 7 years. I loved getting my MFA.
I believe in writing workshops–the craft, the community, sharing your work, learning from others’ work, the discussions, the inspiration. And oh, the places you’ll go. I’m on the board of Writing by Writers, which hosts workshops for writers.
But for two and a half years I did all three–writing group, MFA, and summer workshops. And it was fun. But it was, at the least, five workshops a year as well as monthly individual critiques.
I overdid it.
I am easily swayed. I see the good in everyone else’s suggestions. And it got so that I could no longer hear my own voice.
It’s been two years since I was in a workshop. And last fall I began to see the benefit from my time off–I received a manuscript critique from a trusted reader, and instead of changing everything because yes, that was a good point, I was able to recognize the places that should stay the way they were. And I knew why.
I’m so glad to hear it, C. Sometimes we have to kill our darlings, but sometimes we need to fight for them, too.
Thanks, D! Hope all is good with you.
I agree! There’s a time for joining and a time for pulling out.
That’s what I experienced in a graduate program in fiction writing and literature. For me, it was wanting to please. My thesis committee members didn’t get along, fairly common in academia, and I’d go office to office for critique knowing each would disagree with the previous. The students were often competitive rather than helpful. By the end, I had little identity or joy in writing. I completed the degree and crashed.
Kirie, my Ellen Gilchrist/Annie Dillard pal, I’m so sorry you had such a bad graduate experience. Mine, at VCFA, was wonderful. I started to write that it had nothing to do with wanting to please and everything to do with overload, but perhaps I need to think about the wanting-to-please. I appreciate your mentioning that. It’s so great to hear from you again. I hope you’re back to writing now?
Thanks for remembering our common heroines, Cynthia! Yes, I’m writing every day and sending out every day. Or almost. Showing up at the page. Fifteen minutes, I bribe myself, and then I’m off, often a big smile on my face. Love your blog!
Thanks, Kirie. Great to hear you’re writing AND sending out. Good for you!
Hell’s yes! And congratulations on getting past the confusion wrought by readers. I saw that reaction so often in workshop, and it can be so frustrating to watch someone drift this way and that way as the windy critiquers do blow on. I have ONE advantage as a writer, and it’s my ability to ignore that shit. I wish I could gift it to every writer. And I wish every workshop participant for the rest of time would go into workshop knowing that the point of the gathering and the preparation is to use mss to elucidate and then discuss issues of craft that we can all benefit from understanding better, and NEVER, absolutely NEVER, to “fix” anyone’s work. You can’t and shouldn’t try to write by committee. So again: A huge high-five from Maine.
I feel really good about where I am now with this particular truth. Amazing that you can tune it all out. I know one other person who can do the same.