I had never been in a workshop (or had my pieces workshopped) before I got into the MFA program. Naturally, I entered the program nervous. I didn’t know what to expect or what was expected of me. Besides a few friends and family, my stories didn’t have much of an audience. I didn’t know how my work would be received.
Everyone is protective of the writing they create and I was too. Initially, I struggled to share my work out of fear of it being misunderstood or misinterpreted. That was something I knew I had to learn to work around, and the program helps you do just that. The workshop class is a small group of approachable and focused people whose main objective is to produce good writing. Working with a group like that helps build confidence to share your work in order to make it better. Having other people look at the development of your writing over a period of time generates a variety of perspectives. The workshop group constitutes people from different backgrounds who produce different readings of your text, which I find most helpful. The writer figures out so much of their own writing style when they view their stories/poems from other people’s eyes. For example, having other people workshop my pieces over two semesters helped me discover my strengths and weaknesses and how to use them to my advantage. Something that I wouldn’t be able to see by myself.
I’ve become more aware of my audience now than before. I’ve never written for an American audience and so workshops from time to time facilitate my understanding of the American publishing world: what kind of writing is successful, how to develop a good piece of writing, etc.
One major thing the MFA program has taught me is to love my work while also maintaining a distance from it. Just enough distance to be able to revise and continue working on it after receiving feedback. Revising a story or poem was not my strong point; it often felt like I was cheating on my first draft by altering or editing it. But over the course of my first semester, I realized the importance of going back and revisiting works that I thought might be ready for the world. Editing is still painful; cutting full chunks out is not the easiest thing to do. For that, I’ve made a folder for all the edited portions I take out of certain pieces, in the hope of using them somewhere else.
Writers are always growing in terms of their voice and their writing style, and workshops are a good place to learn and grow.
Meryl D’sa is from India and is pursuing her MFA at FAU with a concentration in fiction.