What Does it Mean to Workshop?

When I was younger, I wanted help with my writing. What young writer doesn’t? So, I made a survey with all kinds of questions and sent it out to my friends. I thought that maybe, if I could get their feedback, I could get better at writing. But little did I know, I wanted more than feedback; I wanted answers, guidance, and advice.

I would consider this “survey” my first attempt to create a writing community, but I would also consider it my first attempt to “workshop” my work. It wasn’t until college that I understood what a workshop was.

How does a workshop work?

Essentially, a workshop is when several writers come together to review a member’s piece of writing, usually many writings are reviewed in one workshop. The writing is read before meeting, and then during the meeting everyone shares their thoughts on the piece. Oftentimes discussions include conversations about what’s working, what’s confusing, what questions the readers had, and suggestions for the writer to consider for improvement. Most of the time, the readers will prepare feedback letters, line comments/edits, or some form of written feedback for the writer to utilize as they make revisions.

What else can workshopping include?

As I mentioned, workshopping can include examinations of other published works by writers outside of the workshop. Discussions regarding how writers create successful message, portray various themes, or engage in different rhetorical devices are common. However, other conversations about technique, writing about abstracts, mixing genres, and styles of writing are also common. These conversations can also stem from pieces workshopped in the session. These conversations and examinations are often very intriguing!

Workshops focus on the craft of writing; it’s layers, evolutions, boundaries, and powers.

LF

What’s the difference between a writing workshop and a writing community?

I’ve briefly touched on writing communities in the past. Note that a writing community is not the same as a workshopping community. However, both writing communities and writing workshops are significantly helpful for writers of all kinds.

A writing community often consists of both writers and readers who share related interests in regarding to reading and writing. Usually, any reading that takes place occurs in small groups, usually one-on-one, and isn’t always consistent or formal in nature.

A workshop, on the other hand, usually only consists of writers and approaches a piece of writing as a team. The meetings are usually consistent, as writers are usually working on multiple pieces or a larger project. Also, these writers usually all provide written feedback of some sort.

How do I engage in a workshop?

Some tips to consider when workshopping with others:

  • Avoid making grammatical corrections throughout the whole piece unless the writer indicates otherwise. Workshop is a time to discuss craft, plot, character, style, and approach. Grammatical aspects can be cleared up by an editor, word processor, writing consultant, or writing tutor.
  • If you’re the writer, take contradicting commentary into account, don’t just ignore it. Essentially, contradicting commentary means there’s confusion, so take a look at what the readers are suggesting and carefully consider what the issue seems to be.
  • Always offer your ideas and/or corrections in the form of suggestions. While you may be a fabulous writer and may feel very strongly about something, it’s the writer’s responsibility to weigh suggestions and commentary as they examine their own work. If something really isn’t working, let the writer know and provide suggestions, but don’t tell them what to do. The writing belongs to them, and they will accept or deny suggestions as they feel necessary.
  • If you’re the writer, keep a positive outlook. It may feel like you’re being criticized and bullied sometimes but remember that you are still the owner of your work. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what suggestions you’ll take or which one’s you’ll ignore, and that’s okay.
  • Acknowledge and inform the writer of what you liked about the writing. This may seem dumb, but this isn’t just a compliment train. In fact, when a writer knows what they’re doing well, the writer knows what makes sense to the readers, and they know what to continue doing. Also, they are more likely to recognize their weaknesses.

Workshops pull the writing apart and put it back together. In workshops, you examine a writing’s anatomy and physiology with its spirit.

LF

Workshopping is great experience, especially when you have an awesome group of people to work with! Hope this helps you in all your writing endeavors!

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