★ Writing Workshops

James Burt, in reference to his own post on Literature Network about writing workshops, says:

At the moment I don’t feel comfortable with writing workshops, but I know my writing has improved in the past through many of the talented people I have workshopped with.

That goes for me, too.

The piece makes several good points. At the end of the day, I feel that a workshop full of writers is an unpredictable, chaotic entity that is unusually susceptible to initial conditions.

As I said, I’ve been lucky with writers’ groups. Here’s what I’ve found over the years:

  • In any group of people, there will be some whose opinions are plain wrong. It can be difficult to identify those people.
  • A fellow writer whom you admire personally can read out something that is absolutely awful. This will make for an uncomfortable moment when you try to give them honest feedback.
  • Without honest feedback, a writing group is a pointless talking shop characterised by commiseration.
  • There is a bias towards short fiction because this involves less work for those in the workshop than longer pieces. Through a form of cognitive dissonance, this can bolster the idea that short fiction is a higher or purer form of fiction than the longer variety.
  • It is not the case, as far as I can tell, that other writers can provide you with useful feedback just because they are trying to write too.
  • These people do know what it’s like to try and crash.

Published by Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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