Mar 27, 2006, 4:15 PM
Post #39 of 235
I kind of agree with Clench Million. I think at the end of the day...... I don't really believe that all writers in workshop are out there to help each other. Obviously, you don't want to sound competitive or dumb, so you say intelligent things about other people's manuscripts, and sometimes you've been through the same difficulty yourself and want to help others--but at MFA programs, there are often prizes and contests to compete for, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel the tension in my undergrad workshop. I'm not trying to be immature and annoying; I'm just recognizing this essential element of human nature.
Re: [Clench Million] MFA Workshop + Emotions
My thesis advisor actually said he felt that poets banded together more than fiction writers.
About criticism, here are the ways I see it:
1. You can be blunt, say exactly what you feel.
2. You can be kind, but then this might be construed as patronizing--it's almost impossible not to sound patronizing when you tone down your words to avoid hurting someone's feelings. And what about when the writer recognizes the tinge of Im-not-being-entirely-honest-because-I-don't-want-to-hurt-your-feelings note in your words and voice. That's even worse! Hell is recognizing what others think of you. Bluntness is almost better, is better. I hate it when I turn in something, realize it was bad, and then hear someone else in workshop talk about my work with a smug, know-it-all tone. I can just hear them saying in their heads: "Great, don't have to worry about Rapunzel for that upcoming contest... this sucks."
You have to admit that you would seriously dislike someone if he said this to you:
"No offense but...."
"I'm telling you this because I want to help you."
"I'm trying to think of a way to put this...."
I don't know. I don't like bluntness either. I find it irritating--like, oh, that person didn't even take the time to filter his personal thoughts. We have politeness in this world for a reason.
But then there are some miraculous people (I've only met 2 in my whole life, in all 7 classes I've been in), who don't do #1 or #2. People who are mature and kind, but not smug and self-righteous and deluded about themselves and their judgment. But most people, no matter how old they are, just can't be constructive. Most people are just really prejudiced deep down inside--about subject matter, style, etc. They always betray some kind of bias they cannot be reasoned out of. It's very tough to be open-minded; nearly impossible.
I guess the ideal workshop would be..... 5 people who really respect each other as artists and are willing to be completely honest. But i guess, they would select each other first. In too many classes, there are some writers who just feel that they are inherently more talented than others. not more experienced or better published or older--just endowed with that magical "it" factor. I dated a guy in my workshop once, and was surprised to find that he considered it impossible for other people to write as well as he did. impossible. he had formed a judgment just like that! it's suprising the number of people who just think they are inherently better, born better. Even if I see the worst writing i've ever seen in my life, I still give the artist the benefit of the doubt. i just do.
I don't have any answers. I guess workshop is good in the sense that it brings many people together just to TALK, DISCUSS. If people are so inherently biased, then maybe it's better to just have a bunch of conflicting opinions all at once, rather than one authoritative prof with thumbs up or down.