Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Getting the Most from Your Writing Workshop, Part 3: The "Ally"

At the opposite end of the spectrum from the people in a writing workshop who want you to write the way they do, there is sometimes a person whom I would call an “ally.” An ally is a person who might be from a background similar to yours, who has something important in common with you. Your ally really “gets” your work. Even when the rest of the workshop seems to be deeply skeptical about a particular piece you bring in, your ally will often defend your writing, and sometimes even serve as your ambassador to the workshop, to help the others understand an element of your work.
Because your ally is so sympathetic to you, his or her suggestions may or may not be that useful to you, beyond representing you to the rest of the workshop. Your ally may not have the distance to see a flaw in your work, or may be too friendly to you to point it out.
But take all the encouragement and support you can from your allies. We all crave encouragement and support. I was once in a workshop with a famous poet who shall remain nameless. Whenever someone said something positive about his work, he would bark, “Just tell me about the problems! I know about all the good things in my work.” Well, bully for you, Mr. Poet, but the rest of us actually need encouragement. It helps us keep going, so we can make more mistakes. 

Getting the Most from Your Writing Workshop: 
Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6

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