“Imagine if driving was taught by something like writing workshops. Each session, a group of learners would watch a colleague try a manoeuvre. Afterwards they would take turns to say what they felt went right and what went wrong, with occasional input from an instructor. It would be chaos, and not in a good way. As the New Yorker declared, in a review of Mark McGurl’s history of creative writing programmes and American fiction, The Programme Era, “[workshops are based] on the theory that students who have never published a poem can teach other students who have never published a poem how to write a publishable poem”
The full article lists a number of problems with writing workshops. My friend Kay Sexton has written a post listing some other issues, most of which I agree with. She concludes that “a workshop process is a good one, as part of your writing trajectory, or to dip into and out of at various stages in your writing career“.
I’m not currently involved with any writing workshops (I prefer to think of Write Club as an anti-workshop) but they’ve been an important part of my development as a writer. Umi Sinha‘s workshops at CCE taught me a great deal about editing, as well as introducing me to some good friends such as @LaGirafa. I then studied for an MA in Creative and Critical Writing at Sussex where the workshops were more theory based but good for examining why I write. At the moment I don’t feel comfortable with writing workshops, but I know my writing has improved in the past through many of the talented people I have workshopped with.