A short piece by Jeremiah Chamberlain on Glimmer Train’s Web site turns the point of workshopping upside down. Responding to complaints by students that their effort in writing critiques isn’t being reciprocated by other students, Chamberlain says,
“In a perfect workshop you might never have your writing read by your peers.”
This bit of cognitive dissonance is explained by turning the student’s workshop world topsy-turvy. His point:
“You become a strong writer by writing critiques, not reading them.”
Or, as Chamberlain explains further, “Being forced to analyze the effectiveness of other writers’ stories and to then provide them with clear, concise, specific suggestions for improvement will do more to develop a writer’s craft than almost anything else.”
It’s an interesting point of view. I don’t agree that reading critiques lacks value – One or two well made points can radically alter a revision for the better. And I don’t agree that this complaint should be ignored – a professional environment means everybody pulls their weight. But I do agree that analysis of writing is a key to growing as a writer, and for that reason, I love this emphasis on writing, rather than reading critiques.
In an educational theory perspective, you could say that analysis creates creates deeper knowledge, which creates learning potential, and that potential can be applied in performance.
Read the whole short essay on Glimmer Train’s Web site here.