Last October I participated in my very first writing workshop and I lucked out by workshopping with an incredible group of writers. All of us were workshopping novels and I was really impressed with the quality of writing and the quality of the feedback and critique. I somehow landed myself in a group that included a former Comparative Literature professor and a New York Times Staff Writer, not to mention a slew of other great talents who don't happen to have such fancy professional titles. After our last class, some of us decided to form a writing group and I'm excited about our first meeting, January 19th, of which I'll certainly share the results with you.
I just wanted to say that it has been really beneficial for me to start sharing my work. I started with a really incoherent first chapter in which my protagonist was sort of meandering around trying to figure herself out, which was really a symptom of me not knowing how to start the darn thing. With the help of my classmates, I was able to really focus my novel and move forward. Their feedback was incredibly valuable, as were the deadlines. It's very easy to procrastinate and I couldn't afford to when people were expecting me to turn over something and also offer feedback on their own works.
The experience really opened my eyes to how valuable it is to have people who are willing to read your work and who are going through the same setbacks and victories that seem to come with writing a long piece. I also learned how valuable it is to critique other people's work. You can really learn from sitting down and offering suggestions on how to make someone else's writing work better for them.
I don't know if workshops are for everyone but I do think that, in order for them to be beneficial, you have to be confident in your ideas and your abilities. In my opinion, you shouldn't change your work to satisfy anyone else but yourself. But you also can't expect to be able to see everything that might not be working in a piece (or on the flip side what is working) on your own. I'm glad I was able to put myself out there and share my pages but I don't think I would have benefited from it if I wasn't secure enough to know that what I was trying to write was worth writing.
I'd love to hear everyone's feedback on sharing your words and what kind of experience you had when you turned those first pages over for someone else to read...