Today, I’d like to talk about workshops. It’s a common thing for aspiring writers to want to gain some feedback. They’ll attend a creative writing class, or join a writers group, or something, and share their work, watching it get critiqued. Little do they know at first that this can be a terrifying process, especially in a larger group. The biggest problem is the mob mentality.
I actually had a professor once who knew his way around workshops. Mob mentality is that in the presence of your peers, if one points out a flaw in someone’s work, the rest of the crowd will pounce and tear it to shreds. For beginners, this can destroy their confidence outright. Thus, he came up with a method on getting around mob mentality, and warned us to watch out for it.
1.) Send everyone your work via e-mail at least 3 days before the meeting.
2.) Everyone who is reviewing should send you their initial opinions and thoughts via e-mail. (To also be discussed at the workshop)
3.) Discuss, and maybe re-read the piece (as a refresher) at the workshop for a more hands on review. The writer cannot speak until the very end, at which point they can answer questions and defend their work uninterrupted.
See how this works to prevent the effects of mob mentality though? It’s the second step. The solo review. I had a piece work-shopped like this once. I saw people the day after receiving compliments on my work, no complaints, suddenly agreeing with each other over details they hadn’t previously decided needed improvement. Mob mentality kicked in. However, I had, in hand, the e-mails of most of these people stating lots of things they had liked and wanted to see more of. Even as my confidence took a beating, it was already raised by the personal messages.
As writers, we need to support each other, and those new to the craft. As much as we want to see them reach perfection, confidence in one’s writing is hard to maintain. Keep this in mind when you workshop in the future.
If you have any suggestions, comments, or other workshop tips, comment below!