Workshop

Friday, April 08, 2005

Last week I attended this writers workshop here in town. Yes, a dusty little beach town has a writers workshop... I was also surprised by this fact, hehe.

I had no idea what I would find there (tho expectations weren’t too high I must confess, haha). The class was at this little island in the middle of downtown that has lots of "cultural" things on it. This includes a myriad of small tourist gift shops, some ritzy restaurants and the town's formal cultural center.

Anyways, after getting lost on this little island (yeah, yeah, I suck at orientation, sue me) I finally made it. The workshop consisted of a small group of about a dozen people. I said a quick hello and sat down.

We read an essay by a famous journalist here in Mexico and we discussed his style and structure. Then we made little mini-essays of our own and read them. This was pretty much the end of the session. Then, afterwards, some people brought out stuff they had written and shared them.

Some girl read a little composition, a lady read a poem, this older guy read some kind of memoir/short story, and one last guy read another poem. After each read their work, everyone usually would erupt in praise: "Oh my God, that's beautiful", "That's so great", "You're writer's voice is so good", etc, etc.

This was quite painful. I'm not necessarily implying their work wasn't really that good (it was so-so), I'm just saying that it's useless to have a "workshop" where everybody blindly praises your work... how the hell are you going to improve? Then, when somebody read something especially bad or pointless, a sudden silence would fall and the teacher would interrupt it awkwardly, offering some faint if forced praise. What???

You know, I HATE being criticized. I'm quite immature that way (and many others, but that's another post altogether). Nonetheless, the whole point of me wanting to go to the damn workshop is to improve as a writer. Putting your work up to public scrutiny is like sending your children to the slaughterhouse. It’s torturous and can make your defenses go way up. But that’s the whole damn point of the workshop, to lay it all out and get feedback from people, the intended audience for written material. The point is to work on your work. Not to read it aloud to false and ignorant praise.

In true DramaKing-style, I took it upon myself to create some "literary discussion" and "constructive criticism". In other words, I was out for blood. Haha, ok, ok, not really… at least not this time, hehe. I asked the "poet" lady why she had used commas so generously in her verse, and why it lacked a rigid structure. She was sort of puzzled, as if she really hadn't given it to much thought... the teacher answered for her, sort of defensively, referring to a writer’s "artistic freedom" to do whatever the hell one wanted. Bullshit. I think a writer has to be able to defend every single comma, every single semi-colon, every period or lack thereof. Arguing that you took "artistic liberties" in your creative decisions to me is like saying "I was really too lazy and I don't really know too much about grammar or punctuation anyways". Sheesh.

I asked the other "poet" why he had used Uppercase for some of his nouns and not others. He answered it had been a problem with the computer program. I was all like "Dude, MS Word does not insert random Caps unless you PRESS the shift key! That's not a problem with the program, it's a problem with YOU!". Anyways, the guy then asked about deadlines for some international poetry contests. If I were him, other than loosing ten pounds, I wouldn't quit my day job just yet... hehe.

Then there was the Old Guy. I had observed the group dynamic with him. He would kind of drift in and out of conversations, offering some sort of needless information, kind of just to say something. I saw people avoided interaction with him at all costs. He read this seemingly autobiographical account of his life. It was ok, I mean it was pretty straightforward. The only thing was it had no ending or conclusion or any sort of structure or purpose at all. Just a fragment of a fragment. I asked him if the piece was autobiographical or part of a short story. He answered "Yes". I was puzzled and, to the utter horror of the others, I referred to him again "No, I mean that as a question, what are you writing? Is this a memoir or a story? It seems autobiographical, but what does it belong to?". And he answered again, "Yes". At this point, the discomfort of everyone else was so apparent that the teacher stepped in to save the day and defended the fact that where a writer’s material comes from is irrelevant, a writer can take ideas from wherever he wants. This had nothing to do with what I had asked the old man, but I decided to let it be. I just thought it was mean to judge the Old Guy as a crazy old coot and ignore him like the others. Now I know why they do it, though, and will think twice about grilling him in the future.

While we were going through the lady's poem, we where explaining some of the words we didn’t understand. When pressed, the teacher then admitted he didn't know a particular word (a synonym for "pen" in Spanish) but claimed "Well, it sounded really nice to me, so it seemed fine, he-he". Sheesh. I also concluded that while the teacher has above average culture, he isn't really suited to be in charge of this group. But in the absence of anybody else, well...

It was an interesting experience. Since I really wasn't expecting much, I can't say I was disappointed, haha. Still, in spite of its shortcomings, I will continue to attend. I think it's a good opportunity to stimulate creation (like writing a blog, ha!). They have a public reading on May 5 and they want us to contribute stuff to fill the program, so this is as good an excuse as any to write more in Spanish and see if my stuff will make it in the show. Needless to say, if it doesn't, I don't think I'll get too down about it, haha.

6 Comments:

  • At April 08, 2005 2:46 PM, Blogger SJES said…

    They're inviting you again?? God. :)

     
  • At April 08, 2005 4:36 PM, Blogger DramaKing said…

    Well, they're not inviting me per se, I'm just going to show up again, haha.

    Call me Germy, the workshop terrorist, haha.

    -Germy

     
  • At April 10, 2005 11:28 AM, Blogger psesito said…

    Did you read something of your own?

     
  • At April 10, 2005 2:31 PM, Blogger DramaKing said…

    Are you kidding? After what I did, they'll eat me alive... those piranhas...

    Haha. No, but I'm getting something ready for the show and I'm going to read it this week. Into the lion's den I go, my pretties...

    -Germy

     
  • At April 10, 2005 4:13 PM, Blogger psesito said…

    That's good. You transformed the quite and naïve group into a lion's den.

    Not bad for only one day of Germy.

     
  • At April 10, 2005 5:07 PM, Blogger DramaKing said…

    I know... next, I'm gonna work on their wardrobe (yikes! color coordination darlings! please!) and start teaching them the first few bars of "I will survive"... ;-)

    First I was afraid
    I was petrified...


    Hehehe.

    -Germy

     

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