Don’t Go Too Soft on Me

I went to Introduction to Creative Writing Using the AWA Method today, which I found through  I’m not sure where to begin.

The space itself had a certain austere quality to it.  The leader of the workshop uses the space to teach yoga, so we were asked to leave our shoes at the door when walking on the nice carpet.  At one end of the room was a short table with a little shrine set up for Buddha, and high on the walls were small Buddha statues and bells and figures.  Above that, the power lines were exposed, like the rib cage of a great beast.  I wondered if the ceiling had been lower at one point, but then removed to make for a bigger, more open space.

The space reminded of Pol’s dojo.  The the leader, Beth, lead us through meditation and I was reminded of Pol himself.

The space was warm and welcoming, and the environment had all of the harsh edges and dangers filed down or made soft to make space for writing, reading, and sharing.  It reminded me of when I posted to Facebook that I needed to wrestle my muse.  For the last writing exercise, I let my muse ride over me and everyone in the room enjoyed it, very much.

Will I go and do one of those workshops again?  I don’t think so.  I honestly don’t know that I got much out of it.

One of the tenets of the AWA method is that “everyone is born a creative genius.” I kept looking at that and thinking that it was wrong.  I think everyone is born with the potential of being a creative genius, but actual genius requires hard work and dedication.  Most people are not prodigies.

As I sat through the workshop, I thought of Michael, and how the entire AWA approach is antithetical to his style.  Michael is all about hard edges and hard truths.  If he doesn’t like something, you’ll know it.  If he doesn’t like you and he doesn’t like something you’ve done, not only will you know it, but you may be left in tears or a rage, depending on your disposition.  Michael is brutally honest, and I appreciate that about him.

The soft, gooey approach of the workshop was a gelatinous mess by way of comparison.  I wrote some good stuff, and the only way I know that the people in the workshop really enjoyed it is because I could read it in their expressions.  They weren’t fantastic actors.  The AWA method disallowed them from voicing solid opinions, or giving me feedback that would help me improve whatever I did wrong.  All we were allowed to do was try to reinforce whatever we took away from the writing, and whatever we thought was strong.

To put it bluntly, a couple of the things the rest of the group wrote and shared, I just didn’t like.  I couldn’t say that, though.  I’d mention the things I honestly thought were strengths and stay silent on everything else.  After one person shared her work, I just stayed silent altogether.  A few people were silent the entire time.

I think I need the danger of a criticism to be a part of the process.  I don’t want to be abused, and I don’t want to be crushed.  At the same time, I need people to be able to express dissatisfaction with my work.  Tim shared with me that he didn’t like the first few chapters of my story, and that was valuable.  I look at it now, and I see exactly what he was saying.  I don’t like the beginning now, either.  I’m going to redo that.  This group I was with would have told me that I used good phrasing and good description, but they wouldn’t have been able to tell me that what I was describing wasn’t appropriate for the beginning of a book.


2 thoughts on “Don’t Go Too Soft on Me

    • I was quiet for a couple of reasons, actually.
      1) I went first, and I had no idea how much I was supposed to say. That was my first workshop, so I had no frame of reference for what to say or do
      2) I have some talent and good instincts, but I don’t think I have a ton of skill. That means that you can give me a prompt, and I’ll write my little heart out and make it a compelling story, but it will have some basic problems, like too many adverbs. That also means that I can read someone else’s work, and say whether or not I enjoy it, but I won’t be able to fully articulate why.

      Regarding that last part, it’s possible I’m selling myself short. My education level has always been something I’ve been a little bit ashamed of. When I went back to school in 2006, I told my creative writing teacher something along the lines of, “For writing, I’d give myself an A, but analysis, a C+ at best.” She disagreed with me on the analysis part.

      I guess there’s another reason I was quiet:
      3) I was nervous as hell and didn’t want to make a bloody fool of myself.

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