When I first attended writing groups, I accepted the “silent workshop” where the author of the piece that is being critiqued keeps silent as she hears feedback from her peers. Who was I to challenge this method? How blindly I accepted that my role in this traditional workshop was to toss out my comments to the writer as if they were truth. Well, they were truth. My truth. Not the writer’s, who was on the “hot seat,” truth or intent.
And when I was on the “hot seat” myself, I attempted to welcome feedback without dialogue with the person who gave the criticism. It was my choice to accept or discard, but not discuss.
How refreshing to reevaluate this one-way interaction for a discussion that the writer controls.
The writer who knows her work best.
I have reblogged an overview of the new “genuine community model” written by Kailyn McCord (Brevity’s Nonfiction blog, August 27, 2020). What are your thoughts?
By Kailyn McCord
I grew up in what I’d call a traditional workshop. Non-genre specific, usually involving between six and twelve people, this model will be familiar to any in the capital-C capital-W Creative Writing world. In it, the writer under critique listens, verboten from speaking, while peers and professor discuss their work. The conversation usually begins with strengths, then progresses to problems. The function of the writer’s silence is two-fold: first as mechanism so that they might listen more thoroughly, and second, so that the group might elucidate the work before them without clues as to the intentions behind it. Silence bears enlightenment; via their role as witness, the writer comes to see, somewhat miraculously, the true meaning of their own work.
My experiences with this model (years in an MFA, a smattering of conferences) weren’t bad, but they did breed a familiar pattern. When in the hot seat…
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