Workshop as a feedback system is one which (I presume) most creative people opt for. From my own experience, workshop has its benefits as well as its drawback.
I had my first writing workshop when I was studying creative writing at uni. It was a traumatic experience to me. Not only because it was my first formal workshop, it’s also because I had an inexperience young tutor whose first love was English language, not creative writing. I ended up having English grammar lesson instead of workshop. My confidence in my own writing was totally shattered at the end of the semester.
During the 2nd and 3rd year at uni, I had a wonderful tutor who was encouraging and supportive. As I knew some of the workshop group members from 1st year at uni, we had built up trust to each other. It made us feel safe and free to offer comments as well as accepting critique. My writing confidence soared and as a result of that, my writing improved. It also made the writing process a lot more fun.
The latest workshop I had was through a year long course I did at Victorian Writer’s Centre. I didn’t enjoy it for a very simple reason. I was at the wrong group. Majority of participants were writing literary fiction, including the tutor. There were only three others (including myself) who were working on (loosely speaking) genre type writing. You could tell the interest level the group had on my strange tales from the frown on the tutor’s and some of the participants' foreheads. While the group would spend hours on discussion about the literary fiction genre, there was no mention of other genre.
However, one good thing did come out from this year long course. I made friend with one of the participants after the course finished. Every now and then, we critique each other’s stories. I had learnt how to do proper critique from her. This had greatly improved my writing skill. But due to each other’s schedule and our varied writing interests, we did not continued.
Since then, I’m working on my own.
Overall, my workshop expereince was of average. But it doesn’t mean that I’m against workshop or writing group.
Writing is a solitary activity and writers require a lot of alone time to create. But too much alone writing time can lead to an imbalance view of one’s work. Workshop at its core could provide an objective view of a participant’s work. And at its best, it could help to improve the participant’s skill and the work. Overall, I believe it is more about the kind of workshop and workshop group which one picks. In the coming weeks, I’ll be following up with more posts on workshop and writing group.
Alright, so far is my limited view on workshop. What do you think?
(The post is inspired and served as my respond to Sophie's post on "Workshopping" .)