Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bizarro Night Thinking About Writing Workshops

Tonight, I've decided to take things in a little reverse. I've had a few sips of a homemade not so great whiskey (bourbon) sour when I should be responsible, getting stuff done fast and being responsible. Usually, I would wait to write in the blog until I've done my writing for the night. Today at work was relatively hectic and yesterday sucked, though, so why not?

Besides, I might not actually get to writing in here, at all, if I keep telling myself that I'll do it when I'm done writing, at the end of the night or over the weekend. Maybe if I involved myself in the online writing thinking scene, even just partially and a little in blogs and such, as I did about a year ago. That's when I wrote quite a bit on here.

Ahhh, well. . .such is the life of the struggling writer, I guess, who also has something of a professional career that I don't care so much about.

One thing I do care about, though, is workshopping writing. Currently, I'm interested in comparing and contrasting two strategies: getting involved in just one workshop at a time or submitting your work and editing it according to the reactions of many workshops at once.

My initial reaction to the latter strategy is that it could lead to writing by community and attempting to please everyone. I think this can become an issue for someone writing science fiction or fantasy who ends up taking part in at least one non-sci fi non-fantasy workshop. Yes, there's something interesting and cool about writing the groundbreaking genre book that catches the eyes of non-genre readers.

Nonetheless, writing for the genre has its advantages, especially when good writing for the genre attracts non-genre readers. I know ER isn't a genre TV show, but it broke ground when it first came out, it used all these "medical" terms without explaining them to the audience. It threw the audience into the action and expected them to get with the program or turn off the TV. Now look at the show. It's pretty popular and probably because it respected the audience enough not to dumb itself down.

That's pretty much my one criticism of having too much of a simultaneous audience while writing, especially in the development stage. The piece can end up go in so many directions it goes nowhere. I wonder if a writer has more of a tendency to write for the community and not to follow their own instinct when they have such a big audience.

Is that why creative artists eventually sell out once their audience gets big enough, even when they're not doing it to make the big bucks. Does their own instinct for taste change because they've become influenced by the audience?

In comparison, I can't really think of any different disadvantages for working with a single workshop that I couldn't think up for any kind of workshop. Actually, maybe I can think of two issues: easily getting into a rut because the writer doesn't get challenged enough, at least, not in enough different ways.

Then there's the issue of writers in a workshop ending up writing in a homogeneous style, too similar to each other. I guess that could be similar to entering the rut because of not getting enough challenge, though.

In the end, though, I think it comes down to the writer's instinct. Sure, a writer can gain something from criticism and "empirical research," but without the instinct to discriminate what works and doesn't work and what you think will grab the audience or not, not amount of criticism and empirical research can help. I guess depending on all that, a writer can fall into the issue of writing for everyone instead of to the people who will get the story or, in the end, writing the story for the story.

I remember reading in a social psychology book about making meaning or man's need for culture that without emotion, a person will have a difficult time making a decision. They can weigh facts forever and not make a decision, unless there's an obviously logical answer to the issue. But, even then, what makes the decision obvious? Emotion, silly, emotion. . .which, in many ways, is an instinctual aspect of ourselves.

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