Establishing Boundaries in Writing Workshops

Hello blogosphere!  Sorry I have been MIA as of late – this semester has been kicking my butt, for lack of a better phrase.  I have been writing and typing like mad lately, finishing stories for my classes and publishing articles for Odyssey, and have unfortunately neglected my own little corner of the Internet.  Never fear, though, I’m back – at least for now.

Given my aforementioned stories that have been written for my creative writing classes at school, I thought I would focus on something almost exclusively done in said classes: the creative writing workshop.  Workshopping is crucial to being a writer.  It’s a pretty widely accepted form of garnering critiques and is how most college level creative writing classes are taught but, as with almost anything, there are positives and negatives to this form.  Up until this semester, I would have to say that my workshopping experiences have been largely positive, aside from a few snafus where I put my foot in my mouth in front of the entire class, but I have had some interesting workshops this week in particular that have left me with a sense of fear at the mention of the word “workshop.”

I find that sometimes workshopping is a tedious balance between a love fest, or a bashing fest, on a writer’s work.  It can be hard to establish the sense of what is appropriate and useful and what is unhelpful and sometimes just rude.  Letting a large group, especially of college students, have almost free reign on a discussion of their peer’s work can be tricky.  Like I mentioned, I’ve never really had a negative connation with workshops, but this semester has gotten off to a rocky start in terms of my two creative writing classes.

After experiencing an extremely disorganized workshop in which some student’s work received less attention than others, a workshop consisting of – there’s really no better way to say it – a big mouth who thinks they are better than everyone else, and a pretty brutal workshop in which both my story a classmate’s got picked apart by our vulturous peers, you could say that I am over workshopping altogether.  At least for this week!

All of this has made me realize the importance of establishing boundaries when it comes to workshops and the importance of carefully thinking through what you are going to say.  Sometimes things come across harsher than intended, and sometimes people don’t actually know what they are talking about (the constant “in my experience, life doesn’t happen this way” thing).  I’m not saying that I’m a perfect workshopper myself – I’m sure sometimes I come across in ways I don’t want to – but I always attempt to ruminate on my comments before saying them (if I can get a word in edgewise, that is).

I’m not quite sure what the purpose of this post was.  Perhaps a rant.  Perhaps a way for me to get over the bashing I went through earlier this evening.  Whatever it was, I hope it might inform some mysterious reader of how important thoughtfulness and balance is to having a beneficial workshop.  Without workshopping, writers cannot grow, but there must be guidelines to go by that allow for a pleasant and useful experience for everyone involved.

Pretending: the Job of a Writer

When I was younger, my sister and our friends would constantly play in a world of make believe.  We always had a flare for the dramatic, and liked to pretend we were orphans in the twentieth-century on a ship sailing to the untouched country of promise that was America.  If not orphans, than we were princesses.  Then we were spies, stealthily hiding clues across our backyard and trying to trick the other rival spy-team.  We went through a videography phase after I got my ‘new’ digital camera and learned how to use Windows Movie Maker and even made our own terribly cheesy action flick about a clumsy spy who ended up saving the world.  Although I’m sure if I saw it now it would seem awful, we were very dedicated and ended up with a thirty minute long mockumentary (before it was even a thing, I might add) including bloopers.  After we tired of spying, we moved on to being mermaids in the pool during the still heat of summer.  We were pretty imaginative little girls, and these bouts of pretending, and dolling up in the crazy costumes we made out of contents of the dress up bin, are some of my fondest memories.

Sometimes I feel like the job of a writer is to pretend.  I constantly feel like I am pretending to be “a real writer.”  The world of the writer seems to be one of make believe – where stories are published and paid for, where success is easily at hand, and where imaginary worlds become reality with only a few words.  Really, though, writing is tedious work with little reward, and I’ve realized that someone really can’t plan to become a writer unless they genuinely love their craft.  Just like my friends and I used to pretend when we were little, I have come to pretend in a new way as a grown up (take not that I use that term extremely loosely when referring to myself).  As adults, I think we all put on a facade and act like people we are not.  For different people that means different things.  For me this often means putting on a brave face and sending out stories that I have combed through a million times in hopes of getting a yes, or publishing my words on the internet pretending like I am confident in what I have written.  Oftentimes I feel a little shaky.  It’s tough reading the words of incredibly intelligent and talented individuals and then trying to live up to them.

I think that’s where I go wrong, though.  When I was little, I didn’t care if I was living up the expectations of others.  It didn’t matter that my friends and I weren’t putting on an Oscar-worthy performance in our spy themed short film.  It didn’t matter that our clothing when pretending to be orphans in the 1800s wasn’t historically accurate or even very orphan-like (I’m pretty sure old wedding gowns from garage sales weren’t the typical attire of orphans).  We created our own world, though, and we lived in it wholeheartedly.  That’s the key.  Whether I am a “real writer” or I’m pretending to be one, I need to just embrace the fact that I write.  It doesn’t matter if it’s good or not (hopefully it is), but I love writing.  I genuinely love crafting something out of nothing – taking a stark white page and filling it with someone, some place, and something.  My sincerest hope is that this something is actually worthwhile, but ultimately I’m the judge of that.  If I put all of my effort and time into creating a work of writing, then it is worthwhile.  Even if only to me.

Just like that spy movie was great to all of us while we were making it.  We must have watched it fifty times, just between the five of us who were in it.  We loved making that movie.  I love writing.  There’s success in that, even if it’s not the typical type.  Success is ultimately in doing what you love, and I’m certainly doing that.

Via Quotegram

Writing Consistently is Key

Last week was the first week that I failed to write a post.  I went from a published piece on Thursday to this new piece on Sunday, with nothing in between.  Although I certainly have not been on this little blogging venture for long, I have been consistent.  I’ve churned out a post every week since I started this thing back in April, and I must say that I feel a little dissappointed in myself for not having something ready to go last week.  I’ve skipped a week, and while that little tiny blunder is going to cause my perfectionist brain to have an aneurysm (figuratively at least), I know that it’s okay.

I even have a good reason.  More than one good reason to be precise.  For one thing, it was a holiday week.  I know, I know – that doesn’t make for an excuse, but it does make the week feel a little wonky.  Where was it that I used that word lately? Wonky.  I even looked it up – it’s British in origin, for those who are wondering.  Now every time I hear it I am going to hear each syllable in a British accent.  The other excuse I have for not posting last week is that my first summer class began.  Summer classes this year are an odd combination of being the bane of my existence and my saving grace (for more on why I’m taking summer classes, see here), but that first class has made the last week of my life a little bit crazy.  It was four days in a row for almost eight hours each day.  My hours being consumed with leadership practices, creating a presentation, and working on group projects made focusing on this blog a little bit difficult.

I’m not sure why I’ve decided to turn this post into an excuse-fest.  I think I’m trying to explain my actions to myself.  You see, my greatest fear is disappointing myself.  If I can wake up everyday and feel pleased with who I am and what I have accomplished, then I’ll be happy.  It’s when I wake up in the morning dreading what I have to do that day, or having an unfinished task nagging at me in the back of my mind that I’m miserable.  One of my New Years words (I decided to do words and ideas this year instead of resolutions) was consistency.  I didn’t know that this word would eventually apply to my blog, but it has.  Not writing a post last week felt like breaking a promise to myself.

Consistency is so important to a writer.  Without it, fishing one voice from the sea of many is virtually impossible.  As a writer, I believe that I need to be consistent in what I put out into the world.  I need to make sure that what I say sounds like I would say it; that it holds true to my values and beliefs; and that it appears on the World Wide Web when I said it would.  Granted, I’ve never promised anyone that I’d publish every week, but my brain likes to think that it counts as a separate individual.  I promised myself.

Who knows why I’ve decided to get so personal for this post.  Although I think I’ve often gotten pretty up close and personal with other posts, this one seems different.  It’s showing the world the inner workings of my brain.  Some of you will probably think that I’m a psycho control freak – and maybe I am.  I’ve always been brutally hard on myself, especially when it comes to my personal creative endeavors, and this blog is very important to me.  I don’t want to let it, or myself, down.

But I also need to lighten up.  I get that.  I’m going to publish this, and all will be well in the world.  Even when I didn’t publish last week, the world kept turning, God was still good, the grass was still green, and I still had summer classes (which is just dreadful, really).  I need to learn to be okay with whatever happens.  Consistency is important, but so is my sanity.

I think that this is enough for today.  Rambling on about blog posts and consistency won’t help anything, but publishing this will help my schedule get back on track.  I’ll no longer wake up with that nagging in the back of my head to get something posted here, and my days will no longer seem wonky (you heard an accent there this time, right?)

The Writing Journey of a Thousand Miles Starts With a Single Step

And so it begins.  This writing journey that I’m starting on will be bumpy I’m sure, crazy at times for certain, and hopefully one for the books.  I want to be a writer, and have goals of having a published novel one day.  For now, it’s a seemingly never ending process.  One that I am just now beginning, but that I am working to succeed at.  I hope that whoever you are, dear reader, you will come along with me on this journey.  The process is half the fun, after all.

Writing takes practice and practice takes time. So this is my practice.  My online journal, my collection of ramblings, and my digital records book. I’m in it for the long haul, and I hope you will be with me. There’s a saying that to be a true writer (pick me, pick me!) one must write a million words. So here’s 163 more to add to my count, and I’ll be back for more soon!

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