I recently shared these thoughts with my creative writing students, but I thought my writer friends could benefit from them, too.
As a creative writer, there should be nothing more important and sacred in your life as workshop. And I’m not exaggerating.
Workshop is the best way for you to grow as a writer.
Even if you have great instructors and friends guiding your writing, no single person is ever going to be as useful and thoughtful as a group of your peers collectively supporting your work.
Every workshop leader guides workshop a little differently. I’ve had professors who model ideal workshop comments, and I’ve had others who have ravaged students’ poems during workshop. I’ve had professors who didn’t speak during workshop, and I had other who orchestrated it. Some professors prefer anonymous workshops, so no one knows who the writer is, and others don’t.
It’s much more infuriating to feel like someone hasn’t read your writing than it is to hear that your writing needs some work.
Everything someone says about your work is useful. If they don’t like the font, you don’t want an editor to have that reaction and not even read your work; change it to something normal.
When you’re commenting on someone else’s work, above all else be kind and helpful. And thorough.
Create a single space and single time to read all of the comments on your work at once. Then before you do anything else, walk away. I’ve never gotten good at hearing what I’ve done wrong or could have done better; when I get feedback, I sit by myself, read it all, and then do something completely different for a while before I come back to it. That way I use my reaction (even if I think the comments are crap) to improve my writing, not start a quarrel.
Did I say workshop is sacred? Workshop is sacred. You need to take it very seriously. Set that tone. If anyone/anything/whatever, disrespects the sacredness of workshop, tell me immediately.