Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Silencing the voices

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” Van Gogh said this and one of my Gotham students posted it on our classroom board. I love it. It so applies to writing. Only by writing do all those voices that say you can't or shouldn't or why bother go away. At least for a time.

I received a bunch of emails referring to my blog post on workshopping. One person said I was unfair and unprofessional to have that sort of attitude, that maybe I didn't have all the details.

I knew it would be controversial, that blog.

But here's the thing--sometimes there are reasons someone withdraws from a workshop that have nothing to do with critiquing and being thin-skinned or fearful and have everything to do with income or family obligations or time. I'm not talking about those people. I was really talking about students who havetold me that others don't get their work and that's why they're leaving. There have been only a few over the years. But this happens in all workshops and so I was also talking in general, to also say, when you feel others are not getting what you're trying to do, to examine that response of yours. Sometimes our feelings are hurt. Sometimes we pour ourselves onto the page and when we get a ho-hum response, it's painful. So, to make sure you're not leaving a workshop because the response isn't what you'd hope.

Other times I've seen writers receive wonderful feedback, only the writer focuses on that bit of criticism that makes them feel bad and turns it all into sour stuff. Sometimes most others "got it," but maybe someone didn't and that's what the disgruntled writer is focused on.

I dunno.

What I do know is that writing silences all those voices.

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