As you know, I am an English major and minor. Which means that I have to take many, many writing classes. This past spring semester I took a Fiction Writing class to fulfill a creative writing requirement. This class definitely helped my writing improve by leaps and bounds – and I believe it’s directly tied to my workshop experience.
Now, in previous writing classes, I’ve spent a lot of time in small group workshops. In groups of three or four, we would exchange stories and peer review them. However, I’d never done a full workshop before. I’d never experienced what it’s like to have a giant group of people tear into your story and tell you what to and to not keep.
It was intimidating. It was terrifying. It made me question my abilities as a writer.
At my University, all classes hold about 20-30 people, and this stands even for writing classes. That was the first aspect that added an intimidation factor to my workshop – I had 25 people going through my story and voicing what they did or did not like. Meanwhile, I had to sit there and not say anything; I could only remain silent and observe the comments that were flying my way.
If there is one test, one hurdle that is difficult to overcome, it is definitely listening to people critiquing a story that is close to your heart. However, it definitely helped me to grow as a writer, I as I learned to listen to the thoughts of those I did not know very well and then applied their comments to further drafts of my story. But, returning to the point of being able to rewrite was not an easy one to reach.
Between the point of my workshop and the point of finally being able to rewrite my story, about a month and a half had passed. I needed time to digest the workshop and weigh the odds of how many changes needed to be made in order to improve my writing. But that waiting period was definitely worth it as I was able to improve the story in a way I hadn’t imagined before. The timeline changed, the characters were flushed out, and I felt grateful for that difficult experience I had gone through.
In the end, the workshop was the hardest day of my life. I was pushed in terms of having to stomach critiques that I wasn’t prepared for and made me step away from a story that I had poured hours of research into. But, by the time I hit my final draft for my portfolio, I was much happier with the story that I had recreated.
To those who said my character’s story wasn’t the one I had originally written – you were right. You were completely right.