I am taking a writing class focused on narrative. The class has 10 women and an instructor. We get together for a couple hours a week to discuss writing technique and to review each other’s work. This process of “workshopping” my writing is entirely new; the only time I’ve given a chapter of work to group to edit was in an undergraduate creative writing course more than 10 years ago.
The experience has been multi-layered. There is the emotional — is there anything as vulnerable as handing off something you consider “art” to a group of strangers for critique? There is the practical — I have to be incredibly disciplined to stay on top of my writing assignments and editing others’ work in the evenings after working the day job. There is the also the intellectual — there have been nights I can’t sleep because my brain won’t shut off. I’m trying to learn so much in a brief period of time and apply it to this novel without letting the Negative Nancies get me off track.
I’d be remiss not to mention the balance once must muster when reviewing edits. I submitted my first chapter and received in return 11 sets of corrections, opinions, and thoughts. Most of these were subjective. Of course those objective — typos, spelling errors, etc — are to be fixed with gratitude for the editor. Then there are those long, red ink, cursive notes down the page suggesting how you should have written it. And the details you should have included. And what would make it more believable.
The balance is in reading those edits and deciding what holds merit vs. what is nonsense. Writing is a subjective art form. As the author, you’ve got to believe in what you are creating, and stay firm to the elements of your story that are non-negotiable.
Also, it is helpful to pick up your suit of thick skin from the dry cleaner the week before you workshop so you can have every button and zipper fastened and armored. My suit is the Insecure Writer Deluxe 2.1 version. It whispers in my ear every 10 minutes “You can do it! Keep writing! You won’t please everyone, and that is more than okay. It’s ideal.” And if it gets wet with salty tears it kicks into hyper-protective mode, available only with this version: “Fuck them.* You are a good writer. Keep writing.”
Keep writing, friends,
*I know! Profanity on the craft blog! Don’t blame Finny. Sometimes you have to call a spade a spade.