Among many tools available to fiction writers while working on a project is a writer’s workshop. Workshops are available in many different genres, including poetry workshop, fiction workshop and creative non-fiction workshop, just to name a few. As a graduate student, pursuing my MA in Writing, I’ve taken a number of workshops and in my own experience they’ve been useful to some degree but there were times when they’ve led to nothing but frustration due to battles among workshop peers as to what should or shouldn’t be in the piece I was currently working on. This led me to ask the question, are workshops helpful or harmful?
The writer’s workshop is a community of writers willing to share their work with others in order to provide and receive useful feedback on their current pieces. However, when we say “useful feedback,” how much is truly useful? What can the writer really use from the feedback given? Two sources that touch upon this topic are the online resource, 12 Writing, and William H. Coles from Editor Opinions Blog, a Companion to Story in Literary Fiction. Both of these sources discuss how to learn from a workshop and avoid an unnecessary sense of failure. Some workshops never instruct a writer on what they are doing right, leaving the writer to delete even the best parts of their work. I’ve experienced this first hand in one of the very first classes that I had in my master's program: the poetry workshop. Since I was a child, writing poetry has always given me a sense of security and pride, until my first workshop, when my pieces were completely ripped apart by some while praised by others. Those who ripped apart my pieces never once gave a bit of good feedback, which caused me to feel like, no matter what I did, those people would not be happy and I tore myself apart in continuing to try.