Tonight I have my Creative Writing class, which started in late January and has only three sessions left. I had a feeling the class would stretch me out of my comfort zone, and that has proven true. It’s a good thing.
In this small workshop-style setting, we are given the opportunity to read various assignments aloud, if we so desire. However, our instructor has repeatedly told us that contrary to what we might think, we’ll get more value in giving rather than receiving feedback. It’s the art of providing (non-judgmental) feedback to other writers that will ultimately make us better writers ourselves.
I’ve become quite comfortable with giving supportive feedback but, apart from sharing a piece in the earlier weeks, I’ve clammed up when it comes to being on the receiving end. It’s an encouraging group and I don’t feel I’ll be criticized harshly or unfairly in any way.
But it’s so interesting what such situations bring up. The mean inner voices that come alive. You think you’re a good writer, but maybe you suck. They won’t get it, so they’ll pick it apart. They’re not perceptive enough to know what you’re trying to say. Everyone here is way more talented than you.
Sometimes it’s exhausting to watch my ego in action!
The class has helped me explore my intentions in writing. With blogging in particular, there is often much emphasis placed on getting ‘likes’ and ‘followers’. But why? What is the end goal of that? What are we chasing? The ego can be sneaky here. (Or blatant.)
Writers have been called narcissistic, and I wonder about that. Writers know that it’s not really in our control – the words must come out, or we’ll explode. Blogging is an amazing platform for this vital self-expression. But though my blog is largely about ‘me’, it’s not because I think my life details are that important, or that people should care about those particulars. It’s just what I know best. It’s where I can write with the most authority.
In the piece that I shared with the group earlier in the course, some feedback I received was that as I read aloud, people started to think about their own lives. It was thus suggested that my work lacked a certain element that would keep listeners focused on my words.
When I reflect on the piece, this was/is a valid critique, and through the discussion that ensued, we learned the importance of balancing core elements in the craft of writing. In the assignments I’ve worked on since, I can see where I’m missing pieces that would make my writing stronger and more powerful. Connecting with other writers in this way has been eye-opening, inspiring, and humbling.
I want to be a better writer, in the technical sense; I want to be clear and get my message across; but I don’t want it to be all about me. I want people to think about their own lives. My measure of personal success is that my words will spur others to reflect on their own experiences and ponder their own journeys.
Writing is a shared experience. I love finding our parallels and connections, and using them to bolster each other. That’s the point. That’s what drives me and fires me up about the whole thing.
It’s very cool that this class is clarifying my values – and showing me when my ego is running the show.
I’m looking forward to sharing my words tonight.