At work I do this thing called ‘Writers’ Workshop’. It’s always a bit of a challenge because I can never remember where to put the apostrophe in ‘writer’s’ and now that I’ve done a little bit of writing myself I realise that the whole process is completely contrived and backwards. Do I brainstorm? No, I sit around for hours with empty time waiting for inspiration to hit me in the gut. And planning? No, no, no, you write first and then you get all lost and tangled up and then you go back and plan. And the first draft malarkey? And calling something finished after two drafts? Don’t make me laugh, is it ever finished? But really the bit I like the most is the editing, although I’ve been wondering whether I am a bit harsh sometimes. OK I don’t wonder I am. I suggest that whole swathes are cut; I send them back to rewrite a paragraph about a million times and when they can’t see where the story is going awry I get them to read it out loud. So I suppose it’s very different, we spend a lot of time together, these budding writers and I, I would never hurt these kids’ feelings and I know when to stop and when to push.
So it’s a bit different here in
In my case I still find the group very useful. When I arrive with a piece I already have a certain idea of how I am looking for the piece to be improved. Then reading the piece aloud instantly brings out flaws (and I have taken to doing that at home when I do my first read through). There’s also a certain amount of ego caressing when you can see that your work is pleasing to someone other than yourself. The criticism is mostly useful, but at the end of the day I come home and rework a piece and either follow the advice or ignore it. I also enjoy critiquing other people’s work, and there are some real cracking pieces.
But then there are the other things like ‘poetry nights’ in trendy bars. I had a friend visiting and another friend who was coerced into going and I suppose we kind of slipped into teacher mode because some of the poetry was truly dreadful. I think the thing that irritated me the most was that the minority (the irritation is actually completely disproportionate to the quantity) who were bad were people who I had previously come across in the writing group. They had turned up with some interesting, if slightly poor pieces at the group and were not very open to criticism, yet here they were completely happy to pop open their journals in front of an audience, but I suppose that all makes sense really.
The flip side was that there were other people from the writing group who read stuff that had been critiqued and their pieces were much improved, that was kind of cool. And then there was this cool chick with a guitar that had flashing lights that told you when the strings were in tune (I could never tune my guitar properly). There she sat in this sweaty basement and for a second I had images of Phoebe from Friends and a sly smirk spread across my face until she began to sing and I kind of slipped off into folk heaven.
I’m still all confused about this whole critiquing and poetry night thing. I suppose in the end it comes down to me being a bit harsh. Having high standards? Being a teacher? Ah, who knows?
Do check out Erica's link up there. I keep listening to it and thinking WOW. Even Tibo likes its. Well I think he does, he got up and left the room the other day when I started singing!