One Thousand Words on Reading and Writing

Fair warning… the first part of this blog post is going to be about my insecurities.

Yesterday, I took the plunge and signed up for a six week writing workshop at The Writer’s Center.

I’ve dabbled in single night events before. Two where you shared and discussed a piece you had already written and two where you wrote from a prompt at the workshop and then shared that piece.

I’ve enjoyed them greatly and the two prompt writing exercises resulted in blog posts, so they were productive too.

I’ve been considering a longer commitment for a while now. I find myself looking for more specific comments and critiques than a single evening can provide.

And advice. I want advice on how to move my plot forward, or develop a character. Or just to learn little things that I didn’t know. I had no idea that adverbs were evil until I took that first workshop.

But even though I’ve longed for a more in depth experience, the thought has always scared me too.

First, the Writer’s Center is very friendly and welcoming, but it feels like an established community. I acknowledge that this is entirely on me. Not a single person has been less than gracious. But many of them have workshopped and written together before. They are familiar with each other’s work and naturally discuss it in that context.

When you don’t know anyone, it feels like everyone else all know each other. It’s a little intimidating to insert yourself into a group that has that history. At least it is for me.

It doesn’t help that I’m insecure about my writing.

I have actually gotten better about discounting my abilities. I can admit that I might have a modicum of writing talent. I can least string a sentence together and have it make sense.

But I still tend to inwardly scoff when someone offers me praise. I was taught how to graciously accept a compliment by Mrs. Macavoy, one of my fourth grade teachers, so I say thank you and smile. But I’m thinking, “they’re just being nice” or “he’s my friend so he feels like he has to say nice things.”

I know, I know. It’s an issue I need to work on. We all have issues.

On top of feeling like I am a nonwriter and an outsider, I’m not very good at giving feedback.

When you participate in a workshop, it’s as important to give quality feedback as it is to receive it.

I enjoy reading other people’s work and, given enough time, I can come up with some good points to share. At least I think they are good points.

But I’m a person who needs to give it some thought and I think we’re going to be expected to give verbal feedback immediately after hearing a piece read aloud.

I don’t do well on the spot. I rack my brain for something meaningful to say and usually settle on a turn of phrase I found particularly well written or a bit of dialogue what was especially realistic.

Not very helpful, but at least I don’t say “that was good,” which is the first thing that comes to mind.

Although it doesn’t sound like it in this post, I am quite excited to be involved in this more extensive workshop. I hope that I get some momentum to move my MPBAN forward and learn how to better provide feedback to my fellow writers. And maybe at the next prompt writing event, I can feel like a part of the community too.

It occurs to me that many of the insecurities I describe above are due to my introverted nature. I’ve been thinking about being an introvert a lot lately because I’m reading “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain.

I’m reading the book because the author is going to be that the Books on the Nightstand Booktopia 2012 in April. And even though I’m interested in the topic, as it applies to my life and my career, I don’t think I every would have picked up the book because I don’t ready much if any nonfiction.

I call myself an avid reader (Why is avid always used with reader? Why not fervent or ardent? I think I’m going to start calling myself an ardent reader from now one.) and being an ardent reader, I don’t like to limit what I will read.

But truth be told, I don’t usually enjoy reading nonfiction and when you read for pleasure, why should you read things you don’t enjoy?

The last nonfiction book I read was “Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi. I wanted to like the book. “Lolita” is one of my favorites and even though I knew “Reading Lolita in Tehran” was about more than Nabokov’s book, I thought the hook my draw me in.

But I only got halfway through it before I got bored. I felt awful about it, and even worse when I saw the author speak at a conference and she was interesting, passionate and articulate.

I think my apathy towards nonfiction partly comes from my love of a good plot.

I tend not to listen to music without lyrics and my favorite songs have plots. “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” by the Police, “Sweetheart Like You” by Bob Dylan, “Ghost” by Indigo Girls. They all tell stories.

I like my theater to be plot driven too. I don’t like musicals that are just excuses to sing and dance. I want to know why the characters are singing and dancing.

That’s not to say that nonfiction can’t have plots. “Reading Lolita in Tehran” has a plot. But I love the idea of imagination and the plot means more to me if I know it came out of someone’s brain.

So while I’m enjoying “Quiet” I’ll probably have to get my imagination fix with a novel on the side to make it to the end.

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One thought on “One Thousand Words on Reading and Writing

  1. One thought about giving feedback. Always start by finding and mentioning something you like. If you can’t think of any suggestions to make you could think about saying: I’d line to know more about … A character, someone’s appearance, the location, anything you feel should be expanded. There’s almost always something. Hope thay’s helpful.

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