A few weeks ago I wrote a rather passionate post, reminding you writers to Stand Up For Your Writing! A lot of people out there want to get you down, whether it’s non-writers or other writers in your workshop, and it’s important to remember that your writing has value. Readers agreed and sent in their thoughts in the comments. Jerry said:
Boy, did that ring a bell. More like a gong. From both side of the issue. Being over exuberant in my critiquing and sitting with red ears and a hot face while my writing is being lambasted.
However a third situation I find even more frustrating. A group of writers who seemingly refuse to say anything that might hurt someone, who instead deprive the writer of much needed, and wanted, criticism.
Thanks, Jerry. I think this piece struck a nerve with a lot of readers — many writers out there have experienced a tough workshop and the feeling that people are ganging up on them. It’s also easy to become the aggressors ourselves, eagerly piling critiques on as we observe them without thinking about how it might sound. That’s why I don’t want to sound bitter or blame others, because I’m sure I’ve been the workshop hyena myself at times. Let’s all try to be a bit more sensitive!
And you make a great point with your other thought, too. Sometimes it’s even more frustrating just to get vague, buttery praise. People attend workshops to get criticism, so be thoughtful and discerning with your comments! We all may want a little bit of ego-stroking, but more than anything else we want our writing to improve.
After the jump: more thoughts on standing up for your writing.
Wow, is the hyena analogy true. What I’ve found to be the most detrimental critique is the style critique. I’ve been part of a small four person writier’s group for a few years now and that was our biggest challenge. We all have very different styles of writing. It took us some time to learn to distinguish what is a stylistic preference and what is truly in need of fixing. I have also found that being the only women in the group, I get pounced on often by the men because they simply don’t see why a paragraph of description about thoughts and feelings matter. I’ve learned to defend my work and my style, but it was very hard at first. KEEP YOUR STYLE! Learn what it is and defend it to end of the earth, because if you try to change it, you will stall as a writer and nothing you write will be good.
Thanks, Felicia. That’s another way a workshop can turn ugly — when people let their personal tastes get in the way of objective story critiques. We’re supposed to respect others’ styles and work to help them get that style as good as it can be. That doesn’t mean changing their style to better suit us and our likes and dislikes. If you have a strong sense of what you want your style to be, don’t let others change it! Just work on making it as good as you can.
Thanks, commenters! Add your thoughts to the debate to the comments here, and tune in next week for more mailbag responses.