students in a writing workshop class

The Fear of the Workshop Course

If you are a creative writing major or ever have to take a workshop class, you know how scary it can be. Sometimes you have to take a workshop as a required elective. Here is how the process usually goes; you write your first draft and bring it to class for you classmates to workshop. They each go around and explain what worked and what didn’t work. They can also correct any grammar or spelling issues. Some classmates will suggest ideas or topics, or changes to your story, article, poem or whatever it is you’re writing. If you haven’t ever taken a class like this you might be wondering why would anyone be scared of this class? It doesn’t seem that bad really, it’s just a student correcting your paper rather than the teacher and students will probably go easier on you. Well, it’s not quite like that.

students in a writing workshop class

The first time you actually get your writing work-shopped is terrifying. Will they like it? Will they hate it? Will they understand it? These are all questions you ask yourself and worry about. It is hard not to take what your peers are saying personally. You’re sitting there, silent, as your class mates go around and talk about you. They are criticizing your work, something you put your heart and soul into. They are telling you how it could be better. They tell you that maybe you should go in a different direction, or that something doesn’t sound right or it doesn’t make any sense. This is hard to hear and it is easy to get defensive and start an argument. Usually your professor will ask you not respond until the everyone has made their comments. This can build up a lot of emotion internally as you sit and wait and hear the pros and cons.

There is also a fear when you have to workshop someone else’s writing. Other than correcting grammar and spelling mistakes, you are expected to really dig into the writing, examine it, and say what you like and don’t like. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by saying you don’t like something, or that something doesn’t make sense. It definitely puts you in a sticky situation.

It does get easier, though. After you sit through your first roast and spend time picking apart others writing, it comes as second nature. You realize that the criticism is constructive, it’s not personal. They are helping you reach your full potential and become a better writer. You are doing the same for them. You might even look forward to attending this class because unlike lectures, it is hands on and involved. It helps you with your public speaking and teaches you how to work with others.

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” So, if you think taking a workshop course seems scary, you’re right, but you should take it anyways.


If you enjoyed this post, check out 10 Unique and Unusual College Majors

about the author

Callie Pederson

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Degree in Communication and Creative Writing. Outdoor enthusiast, animal lover, blogger.

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