3 Things Workshops Taught Me

I’m taking an Advanced Creative Writing Class and this week and next week we’re workshopping short stories. What that means is we submit short stories and discuss them one at a time in class. People say what they liked, explain what didn’t work, and give suggestions to make it better. We got to sign up for the day of our choosing and, being the crazy person I am, I signed up for the first day. I wanted to get it over with and my story was actually done.

I’ve done workshops like this before and I thought I’d share some lessons I’ve learned about both writing and myself.

Lesson One: It’s okay to be nervous.

In fact, it’s expected. As one of my fellow classmates said, “It wouldn’t be a workshop if you weren’t nervous.” It’s not easy to have your work critiqued and anyone who says differently is doing it wrong.

I was feeling pretty good about my story, until I actually sent it. Then the little voice spoke up. “It’s awful,” it said. “Everyone will hate it.” By the time class rolled around, I was a mess. I sat at my desk with shaking hands only to find that my story was the first piece we were going to look at.

Lesson Two: People are actually pretty nice.

Like, for real. I don’t know why, but during workshops I always expect people to bash on my work. Despite the fact that our teacher, and common courtesy, tell us to be respectful and positive. Even if they think so, people won’t just say “It sucks.” And they usually don’t think that. People can always find something positive to say.

But more than that, I’ve been writing for a long time. At the risk of sounding conceited, I am good at what I do. I’ve worked hard to be.

Lesson Three: Writers are my favorite.

Maybe it’s just because I am one and it really takes one writer to understand another. Discussing stories takes on a new aspect with a group of writers. They aren’t afraid to suggest complex concepts or new plot points and they do it in a way that makes sense. They understand the subtle nuances of stories and can articulate how to make it better. My stories always come out much better than they went in.

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