Thursday, June 17, 2010

Owning Your Own Writing

One of the first workshop environments that I experienced was in a poetry writing course I took in college. What a refreshing change it was to have people invest time and thought into my writing. I recall in high school having to trade papers and edit for each other, but the focus was mainly on grammar and spelling. We would simply mark the corrections in red ink and add generic comments of “Good work!” and “Nice job!” To avoid any social mishaps as a result of hurting someone’s feelings, we avoided commenting on the quality of the content. Then, that one college poetry class introduced me to a whole new element of workshopping, a more grown-up, sincere way of working with other writers who (hopefully) had visions similar to my own, which would be to make our writing better. No longer writing for a grade, we were encouraged to write for ourselves in such a way that we could express our feeling and thoughts and engage our readers to make a connection. I suddenly wanted to hear what aspects of my writing the reader was confused about, or what really resonated with them. While you try to take everyone’s responses into consideration, it’s not always possible or practical to do so. This is where taking ownership of your own writing comes into play. It’s your creation. Someone can give you parenting advice, but ultimately, you know what’s best for you and your baby. If a peer reviews your work and offers not only criticism but suggestions, it is worthwhile to take that into account considering they are making an effort to explain what will clarify the piece for them. That is much easier than dealing with someone who is asking you to change the content of your piece for their own personal taste-or worse, because they feel it is a course requirement to hack your baby into tiny pieces, leaving you to put it all back together again. In some cases, instead of changing the work itself, you may need to change the audience.

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