Steam For Your Workshop Self-Esteem
By Heather Noland, Bluegrass Writers Studio
If I can take what I’ve learned about the nature of criticism and the liberating application of advice, and somehow make articulating opinions about someone’s artwork feel more pleasant and necessary, then my mute years of cowering in workshop will have been worth it.
Writers by definition put themselves on a platform to be constantly criticized. By choosing to pursue this occupation you are immediately vulnerable, you tortured soul, but there’s also validation in both having an audience and taking ownership of your sentiments.
This is slightly weird because I’m still timid as ever to assume judgment of creations other than my own, but I finally realized, hey, it’s not about me. Maybe, like me, you fear being unhelpful and banal in your criticism of something you haven’t yourself mastered.
I could simply say getting over that is essential to your writerly growth—but then, how is it done? And what charts this development, anyway?
For me, it was understanding the level of special treatment I desired. When I wasn’t getting exactly what I wanted in workshop, I honed in more precisely on what that was. I became aware that everyone’s affected similarly and my style of criticism is most valuable when vocalized.
And I mourned missed opportunities to be verbally constructive, all the while being frustrated for having admitted that I was seeking special treatment in the first place. But let’s be real, we all are.
My breakthrough occurred in a workshop unlike any I’d been to before in that it completely lacked structure. There was no allotted time for praise or criticism and no real accountability for written critique, as had been custom in my academic experience. I think those shifts are vital when it comes to this practice.
Published on April 14, 2014