Sunday, March 15, 2009

Writing without Workshop

As March charges steadily toward its end I’m beginning to face the likelihood that I’ll be joining the real world next semester instead of continuing on as a grad student in a new program somewhere. So far I’ve gotten lukewarm responses at best – ranging from getting in to a program without being offered a TA to making it onto the wait list to getting flat out rejected. There are still two schools I haven’t heard back from but one of them I feel 99% certain I would have heard by now if I had gotten in and the other it’s likely will be a rejection, too, judging from the responses I’ve received from the other programs.

What does this have to do with workshop, you ask? That’s a very good question. I’ll tell you. Even though my preference would have been to get into a literature program, I had been planning on trying to take workshops as electives so I could continue getting feedback and being forced to grow as a writer. With the realization that I won’t be in school comes the realization that neither will I be taking workshops. And I’m starting to recognize this as a positive opportunity instead of something scary – something ominous – in my future.

I’m sure whether I’m taking workshops or not, I’ll share my work and get feedback from other writers (I’ll have to force myself to be brave about asking them is all). But instead of the broad range of readers in a workshop setting, it’ll just be the people I choose to share my work with and feel confident will give me the sort of feedback that will be helpful for me, personally, as a writer. I’m starting to see that this may actually be better, since I tend to take feedback very seriously – possibly too seriously – and it may be in my best interest to limit the feedback a little bit.

And aside from the obvious fact that it will be liberating to write whatever I want, revise it as I see fit, and not think about what a huge group of people with varied tastes would say, I think it’s also going to push me a little bit harder as a writer, too. I’ve spent the past three years taking into serious consideration the openly voiced opinions of my fellows workshoppers. I’ve learned a lot from it both as a reader and a writer and I’m able, now, to look at my own writing much more objectively and anticipate what major concerns a reader might have.

I think not taking part in the workshop environment will force me to put this skill to better use and force me to practice it, hone it. Instead of having the comfort of letting somebody tell me whether my suspicions about this or that aspect of the story not working are founded, I’ll have to work it out for myself – pinpoint the problems and figure out how to fix them. And I think it’ll help me take that next, necessary step forward as a writer.

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