Sunday, February 18, 2007

Preparing for Some Humble Pie

I tell you, the minister who sermonized today at church must have sensed my anxiety. He called the sermon "Humble Pie." In a couple days, when I go to my first writer's workshop in a long while, I expect to eat a big piece of the pie.

Except for four or five people, I haven't let anyone read anything I've written seriously for something like 6 or 7 years. I felt like I had two reasons:

1. I had nothing short enough to keep re-submitting to a workshop and finish within a reasonable amount of time.

2. Previous workshops had bruised my self-esteem way too much to feel submitting drafts to one worthwhile.

At the moment, I have protest number 1 addressed. I've mentioned in an earlier entry that I revived a 2-page piece I wrote during my adolescence and published in my high school literary magazine. It hasn't advanced beyond the expansion-development stage yet, but after three passes by the fiancee, I think it needs some more unfamiliar eyes. The story is short enough (clocking in at around 15 or 17 pages double spaced at the moment), however, to get some criticism, revise then submit again.

I still have to face protest number 2, though, which I have chosen to address by jumping straight into the fire. To make things even more crazy, the group will workshop my piece first without any other pieces at the first meeting getting addressed and before any organizational issues get addressed. Taking this tact will probably benefit the group, but I bet my ego will get a good bruising. One case probably doesn't provide enough basis to create a structure for workshopping other pieces, but one works better than none.

Getting my ego bruised can't be avoided. I would, of course, appreciate good tact and graces of fellow workshoppers, but if they have to say something that hurts me to improve the story, then I hope it gets said. Unfortunately, more likely than not, I will probably take something quite personally that may or may not be needed said. I believe such an encounter inevitable to the beginning of a writing workshop endeavor.

Even back in college when the teacher had many years of experience moderating writing workshops, the first workshop of the year would crush my ego. That crushing doesn't even take into account proceeding classes when my bad writing would incite reactions (amongst audience critiquers that I couldn't stand in the first place on the basis of personality) that grinded my ego under a boot heel. The first workshop would rip apart my ego the most, sending me back to my dorm room, both seething and wallowing in a puddle of despair. I expect something similar to happen Tuesday night, when we hold our first workshop.

I hope, I really hope that after the first meeting, though, this workshop will prove a more rewarding experience than my college workshopping experience. On the one hand, I'm older. Further, the average age of my fellow workshoppers will be older. We also all will mostly have the same interest of speculative fiction, since we met though the Chicago Speculative Fiction group. I don't think that necessarily means that we will all write speculative fiction (I mean to branch out, if the inclination strikes me), but I think it will provide some common basis other than going to the same school.

We will probably differentiate from each other in numerous other ways, though. After all, some may think that students at Marlboro College are all black-turtle-necking-wearing Kerouac-reading smokers, but all the students differed. THAT SCHOOL had plenty of social and economic conservatives, even if the school probably leaned more toward liberalism. The workshops I attended had a fair mixture of people, too, even if we had similar political and social leanings. We all had different temperaments, sensitivities, tastes, etc. etc. This workshop with Chicago SF will probably have an equally numbered different viewpoints, if not more, than the workshops I experienced at THAT SCHOOL.

I also fear the over time homogenization tendency of workshops. Essentially, if not careful, a writing workshop group can end up writing too much like each other. They can create a consensus of taste and criticism. At THAT SCHOOL, I made sure to stay vigilant of the homogenization, but I think having the roster of the class changing every year helped that goal. For a workshop with an indefinite length, I wonder if it will make resisting the homogenization tendency any harder. Nonetheless, other people can provide some really good advice, so I'm ready to take each bit of criticism and advice for its worth. If it intuitively works or requires me to do a little research to evaluate the usefulness of the opinion, then I'll use it. If I find something that doesn't work, though, I also have the freedom to ignore it.

Not much else to say about the hazy memories of workshop experiences. Still feeling pretty anxious about the zero hour of the workshop Tuesday night. Nonetheless, I look forward to facing the hardship and becoming a better, refined and enriched person after the experience. Too bad I will have to suffer an injured ego before receiving benefits from the workshop.

Oh well, such is life.

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