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Writing Workshops

Updated on April 19, 2019
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Ms. Rivera-Santos’s fiction, nonfiction & poetry have appeared in print & online journals. Her novels have not found the right home yet.

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Can you Listen to Feedback about Your Work?

When you spend dozens of hours or more preparing a manuscript, it might be irritating to think someone else has a say in the execution of your ideas. The beautiful thing about writing is our ability to sit alone in the space of our choice and create a world. And in the process of writing, we can populate our world with political leaders, communities, and personalities in line with our particular views or not. A group of people can provide the characteristics of one person and we can easily slip into a new genre to try it on.

The plethora of choices and the autonomy of creation is what drives writers to become servers at coffee shops, book store clerks stocking books and distracted professors. We seek day jobs that incorporate the types of interaction necessary for the improvement of our craft. Being in the world with all its wild unpredictability is fodder for the next story, poem or play.

When you're a solitary writer, interaction with people, books or mandatory conversations at work help us climb out of our heads. The world at large has something to convey to us and good writers are good listeners.

At some point, the private act of writing must collide with the public act of sharing one's work. Writers must show their work to someone or even several people. An audience of one makes your work a journal, so letting go of your short story is like dropping off the kid to daycare for the first time. You might be nervous, but trust that others can handle your progeny with care.

  • Before you submit your work for others to see, read it out loud. You'd be surprised how many times a missing pause can make a logical statement very confusing or pointless.
  • When you meet with your critiquing group, write down the feedback of each person -- even the people you don't like. You may not like the person's personality or tone of voice, but his or her feedback might be invaluable.
  • Take what you like and consider the rest. At first listen, you might categorically dismiss half the feedback, but it might be your ego making decisions. Being overly attached to how you have written something in the solitude of your garret will stunt your growth as a creative.
  • Make all the recommended changes to see what it looks, feels and sounds like. You can always keep a copy of your original document and send out both versions to new readers.
  • Writers who spend time helping each other become great allies in the search for innovative ways to get your work published or performed, depending on your genre.
  • Bringing people into your writing process is a great way to see your great habits and those that have gotten stale.
  • Solitude with intermittent bursts of meetings with your tribe brings you into contact with an appreciative audience. Remember, some of the feedback will be praise.
  • Reading others' work and having them read yours means you become a better editor, listener, reader and a more compassionate communicator. Telling people what is missing or unclear requires tact.
  • Coming out of isolation and creating a community is an important part of being a creative. It's always a good idea to explore what kind of collaborative work you might enjoy and to see that sharing 'creative' credit needn't be off-putting.
  • You can be specific about how you'd like feedback, so you have some control of the process. You can ask that no one cross out your words and that they write comments in margins instead.
  • When you send out your work, include questions. Ask the reader about a section you know is not quite right and see what your readers have to say.
  • Trust other writers. It might be a risk to trust other writers, but a worthwhile one because a writer will notice all the missing beats in your work and also praise what lands well.

In writing workshops, I've met people who recommended great books, TV shows, magazines, Websites, and Youtube videos about topics I wanted to research. And there is something very energizing about hitting 'send' and to know someone will take the time to read my work, write notes on each page and encourage me to keep getting better.

Regardless of what you hope to accomplish with your writing, a community or writers keeps one hopeful that hours spent deciding the trajectory of imaginary people is valid and good.


© 2019 Odilia Rivera-Santos

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