Seeking Your Own Level

Much ado has been made about writing workshops. For many, they provide safe spaces in which to share work and (hopefully) receive informative, constructive criticism. With the advances made in technology, face-to-fave workshops are no longer the default. There is now a plethora of virtual writing workshops that are just a mouse click or a hash tag away.

I’ve done both virtual and in-person workshops, with varying results. The virtual one didn’t help my writing much in the short term (it was comprised primarily of poets and since I was a prose writer, getting critiques was a challenge), but I still keep in touch with my writing partners from that time: one of whom has been instrumental in eyeballing and critiquing my current two books. The in-person one was more helpful toward my long-term writing, as I got more hands-on instruction from a more established (and published) writer.

Having been on both sides of the workshop aisle, I have come away with the following mantra: seek your own level.

All workshops are not created equal. Sadly, what starts out as a place to get helpful feedback quickly turns into too comfortable a zone. It is not uncommon to find people who have participated in workshops for years, with little progress toward getting their work out to the masses. This does not necessarily mean publication, though that’s a goal. But not even so much as a blog, or a Facebook group, or some tweets? That’s a problem, especially when such people are telling you what’s wrong with your work.

One of the things I liked most about my old in-person workshop was the caliber of the participants. All of us were on somewhat equal footing: we all had to apply for entry into the workshop (some more than once) and we all wrote at roughly the same level. We also all wrote prose, though different genres, and we all had the same goal: publication.  We met daily for two weeks (eight hours a day), had one-on-one meetings with the workshop facilitator (a critically acclaimed author), and at the end had a polished novel.

My virtual workshop was a lot more lax, with writers not just in different genres, but at different writing levels. People posted critiques as they pleased, which meant some pieces went uncritiqued for long periods of time. Some people wanted to be published, some wanted to improve their writing, and some were just there for the social aspect. Having attended the in-person workshop some years after the virtual one, their differences were made obvious, as was the environment that best facilitated my writing and learning.

If you are serious about your craft, you have to surround yourself with like-minded people. Only those who are traveling in your direction will understand–and encourage–the work that needs to occur en route to success. Water, like harmony, seeks its its own level. While finding your tribe is great, there comes a time when you have to leave the safety of the tribe in order to move toward that which you seek. Everyone in the tribe won’t be happy for you, and some may try to deter you–particularly if you may succeed where they have failed. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if the tribe is worth the sacrifice of your dream.

Thanks for stopping by.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. shanadubois
    Jan 18, 2015 @ 00:43:22

    I loved reading your thoughts and experiences with various writing workshops. I know I will be looking for one later this year and now I have some key insights to keep in mind when the time comes.

    Like

    Reply

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