But seriously though?
To be a good writer, it’s fairly obvious what you have to do. Read and write. A lot. But why the writer’s workshop? Why this specific format? Some argue that the workshop holds you accountable, and in that way you keep the writing hand strong. Our personal lives tend to get in the way, and the first thing to go so we can make room for our errands and our relationships is writing. Part of the reason why I took up the minor is because honestly, if it wasn’t for a class, I wasn’t going to be motivated to do it. But that doesn’t really answer the question. It answers why there should be some structured format that incentivizes people to produce work. But do we need 12-on-1 group therapy session were everyone picks apart the story you so masterfully put together? Why do your peers have to be a part of your writing?
What the workshop does is that it provides context for the work that we are doing. We may all write to satisfy something personal, but our work, to a varying degree, is intended for others. This means the workshop starts not at the start of the discussion, but before you even submit the story. Whether you are submitting a story you’ve already previous written, or you are writing a new one, you are actually the first to workshop your own work. Here lies, what I believe to be, the biggest benefit of the workshop. We start to more critically analyze how we introduce and develop a character’s backstory, or ask did we give enough context for the reader to believe what is on the page. We try to read our work through the lens of a reader. I don’t believe that while writing a story you should be worried about what people think of your writing (this only disrupts the creative process), but if people understand your writing. Is your writing doing what you intend for it to do? It is critically important to be able to make the distinction between these two and address the later. The second half of every workshop session is about how can the author make this story more itself. When you workshop yourself, you start learning how to make your writing more itself. You obviously know your work and what you intended. So while others may help you color some things in and iron a story out, you are the only one that can really make the story more itself because you are the only one who knows what the story “is”.
You may have heard people ask, “Can creative writing be taught? Can you actually teach someone how to write?” In the traditional sense of teaching, teaching someone how to write a story is difficult. Writing is personal and intimate discipline. But the workshop isn’t meant to teach us how to write. It’s meant to teach us how to think about our writing. The benefit isn’t how we can make our current work more complete, but how can we improve the quality of our future work.