Friday, October 11, 2019

Editing and Workshops

I've made no secret on this blog that I am involved in several writing workshops. I am the facilitator for one at my local library, and I am a member of several others throughout the area. This takes up about eight nights a month for me, plus odd little events on the side, which is not a huge commitment in the larger perspective. However, I frequently get asked the same question: "Why do you need to go to so many workshops? Do you have that much writing to work on, or do you just need that much help?"

Fair questions, but they miss the real point. First, the most important part of a writing workshop is to put one's self into a community of writers at various stages of developing their process. Surrounding yourself with people on the same journey builds a natural momentum - it is like a peloton in cycling, where cyclists group together along the road and, in turn, reduce drag, save energy, and make the long ride a little easier.

To actually address their questions, I take them on in a very matter-of-fact way. The first part, "Why so many?" gets the peloton response. The second part is far more important, so I approach it piece-by-piece. Firstly, I do not write so much that I need eight nights a month to review all that I have created - I should be so prolific. Workshops are not strictly to review our own work. That's an important function, but not the only one, which leads to the second part about needing that much help.

Do I need that much help? Yes. Yes I do. Every writer always needs help, and from several directions. However, a workshop provides a special kind of help - it provides other examples of writing, and writers trying to turn thoughts into stories. This is a special kind of help, because it gives us the opportunity to be an editor and a writer at the same time.

At many workshops, someone will present a piece, read it aloud, and the members offer critiques through either formal review, comments, written markups, or some combination of methods. This allows us to focus on editing from the larger perspective. Maybe the writer wants us to fix the punctuation, maybe they are looking for tips on structure. We become a consumer of the information and an analyst of its little pieces. In doing that, we benefit from dissecting and exploring writing, which helps as I discussed in a previous post, "Learning From Editing."

However, workshops often have times where a writer contributes a piece and explains what they are trying to accomplish and the struggles they have in achieving that. At this point, the peloton forms and everyone helps improve the piece. We do this by being editors and writers, by thinking how we would approach the challenge, how we would write this, and how their writing fares in accomplishing this. We explain our process as a writer, and offer ideas to the person. It becomes a brainstorming session, but everyone benefits from the exercise.

So do I recommend workshops? Yes I do. Why? Because as writers, we benefit on several levels from working with other people riding along our path, and we are reminded that we are never alone in developing our process.


2 comments:

  1. "which is not a huge commitment in the larger people" people?
    "where cyclists groups together" groups?

    Perhaps I am looking at these with eyes that are too tired from a long week of work.

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    Replies
    1. Good catches, and good reminders why we all can use a second pair of eyes on our work (like in a workshop)

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