“And what about those [writers’ workshop] critiques, by the way? How valuable are they? Not very, in my experience, sorry. A lot of them are maddeningly vague. I love the feeling of Peter’s story,someone may say. It had something… a sense of I don’t know… there’s a loving kind of you know… I can’t exactly describe it….
It seems to occur to few of the attendees that if you have a feeling you just can’t describe, you might just be, I don’t know, kind of like, my sense of it is, maybe in the wrong fucking class.”
I hate to say it, but I agree with Stephen King on this one.
However, in the same breath, I say that I LOVE my writing classes and my writing center and it’s transformed both my life and my writing (same thing?)
I actually do think that that some of the feedback I get from my workshops is valuable and leads to positive changes, more to consider, and even shapes the future of my novel. However hearing the feedback and actually heeding it depends on a complicated list of factors:
- Who is the mouthpiece for this feedback? Are they a writer? Do they understand the genre? Audience?
- What’s the context to which the reader is dropped in? Have they read earlier chapters?
- Do I trust the feedback provider?
- At what stage am I with the piece?
- At what headspace am I at when I hear it?
I know all of this sounds silly. Feedback is unquestionably important and I am always grateful (and pay class tuition) to get it. I take a lot of the feedback I receive into consideration and it comes into play in my writing sometimes.
But I often disregard most of it.
That doesn’t mean that the classes aren’t valuable. The thing I get most out of these classes is that I actually write and revise when I’m enrolled. The discipline is worth it, not necessarily all the feedback.
I’ve had some classes I’ve absolutely adored. I’ve had some that were not a good fit and I left feeling deflated and miserable every week. What about you? Do you participate in fiction workshops or classes? What do you get out of them? Leave me a comment!