Since I started college, workshops have been my life, and they don’t make me any less uncomfortable than when I first started. There’s just something about everyone staring at your work as you read it aloud, trying not to stumble over the words you have carefully crafted. Sometimes, you get roasted. Other times, you get too much praise and not enough corrections. Sometimes you get so much feedback you don’t know what to do with yourself because everything conflicts.
Workshops always stress me out, no matter which class I’m in, whether I’m allowed to say stuff or not. Even if my best friend is sitting next to me, I’m sweating and a thousand thoughts are sprinting through my head at once: What if they hate it? What if they pretend to love it but actually hate it? Did I avoid clichés? Aw, crap, there’s a voice inconsistency on page 2; why didn’t I see that before? Is the dialogue okay? Is everybody fleshed out? Hohmygod, I just read that word wrong. I swear I can read.
The only thing that gets me through workshop is the hope that I’ll get some really good feedback from kind people who want to see my piece become the best that it can be. Except more often than not, I get people like these:
The Mother Teresa: This person throws praise around like confetti. They can’t find anything wrong with your piece ever and only want to say what you did well. Which is good, I like praise, but then at the same time, I would like some suggestions for improvement. Just give me one correction, even if it’s a baby correction, like I spelled a word wrong or this character’s last name doesn’t need to be mentioned. Help me out here, please.
The Regina George: This person lives to find every single thing wrong with your piece and to say it in the rudest possible way. They will tell you that they almost fell asleep reading your piece (I’ve gotten this) and that everything was cliché (I’ve gotten this, too), and yet, they can’t give you any suggestions at all on how to fix it. Okay, so you hated it. Cool. How can I fix it? Oh, you don’t know? Lol k. It’s a workshop, not a roast.
The Cone of Silence: This person finds their lap to be more interesting than the piece at hand. They have nothing to say about your work, politics these days, or whether or not they are breathing. The only time I excuse The Cone of Silence is if they give me a paper full of comments—some people are just uncomfortable talking in class. But, if that paper comes back to me without comments, I’m gonna be annoyed. I spent print credits printing this for you; you gotta give me something.
The Rambler: I think this person is the worst. They’re only trying to get participation points, so they whatever comes to mind, even if it makes zero sense and is not even remotely related to anything. Some people just like the sound of their own voice, and I guess that’s cool, but please make that voice of yours say something that’s actually going to help me improve this work I’m sharing with you.
And, every so often, I’m in a workshop who tells me how to take my piece to the next level, who points out both the good and the stuff that needs fixing and is nice about it. These are the people that are actually helpful. Someday, I hope I can be that person for someone, but until now, I’ll just stick to not being any of these people.