On Tuesday we discussed the format for next week’s workshop and had a brief brainstorming session with one of our writers, who’s struggling to develop an antagonist. The handout on how to workshop can be found here. We’ll likely need to split the workshop into two meetings to have time to address each story thoroughly. (Thomasa will be up first so those new to the process can get a little practice critiquing someone who’s done this before and has a thicker skin. Heather’s called dibs on going last. The rest of the order can be decided the day of the workshop.) At the end of the meeting we exchanged our stories, to be read thoroughly and critically before the meeting on Monday, February 25.
This is a facet of the writing group we haven’t explored fully yet. A writing group can be a source of encouragement and inspiration, a place to trade tips and brainstorm with other writers, and a place to blow off steam and rant about the writing life with folks who understand the joys and frustrations you’re facing. If you’ve developed a certain level of trust with someone in the group or the group as a whole, it can also be the perfect place to get feedback on your work.
If you value feedback from other writers, it’s important to develop your close reading and critiquing skills so that you can provide valuable feedback in return. Both sides of this trade can be intimidating—you’ve shared something very personal and invited your workshop partner or group to perform an examination of its flaws, and you’re holding someone else’s creative work in your hands and being asked to criticize them in turn. It can take time to develop a thick skin in the face of criticism and to learn how to offer the same without bruising someone’s ego too much. There’s no shame in experiencing hurt feelings your first few workshops, but resist the urge to lash out or close yourself off when it happens. Remember that you’re in this together, doing your best to help each other become better writers. As long as all parties approach the process in good faith, with compassion and honesty, it should be a valuable experience for everyone.