Saturday, 20 September 2014

One in, all in

I've talked before on this site about the question of whether the ability to write is inherent or something that can be learnt.

The conclusion I've always come to is that it's somewhere in between. I think there are some people who are natural writers, but you can always learn to be a better writer. To me, the best way of learning has always been to read lots, and especially read lots of really good writing. But I've always been prepared to investigate more direct methods as well.

I've taken more than my fair share of writing classes. Some have been useful. Others less so. I've had some really fantastic teachers who have really inspired me in my writing, and others who were clearly there just to take the paycheck.

But no matter how good the teaching was, there has been one thing above all that has really put me off ever wanting to do any more writing classes: the dreaded all-in workshop.

You may know what I'm talking about. Every week, one or two people are nominated to read their work out to the class. And then it begins. Open slather. One in, all in. It's really not a pretty sight.

It seems that everyone has an opinion. No matter how little sense they have of what your story is actually about, they'll have something to tell you about what's wrong with it. Your head gets pulled this way and that way, until you know longer have any idea of which advice is actually useful (and yes, you can get the occasional pearl of wisdom) and which ones are completely nonsensical, particularly as the most nonsensical suggestions often come from the loudest and most persistent members of the class.

Don't get me wrong. I really value feedback, and wouldn't dream of putting anything out without seeking the considered advice from people whose opinions I value. But random suggestions, thrown at me from all directions from people whose expertise range from zero to nil - I really don't find that useful at all.

Will I ever do more writing classes? Never say never is what I say. If the right class and the right teacher shows up, I'd be mad not to consider it. But as soon as there's any suggestion of an all-in class workshop, then I'm out of there.