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The Pursuit of Perfection: And How It Harms Writers (WMG Writer's Guide Book 3) Kindle Edition
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In these workshops what typically happens is that your manuscript (usually a short story) gets to be critiqued (actually the word for this is constructive feedback or positive criticism) by your peers and colleagues. As Rusch explains, “most workshops have a no-holds-barred policy: the critiques can say whatever they want as meanly as they want and at whatever length they choose”. In her experience, in some cases, criticism of a short story of 3,000 words have lasted for more than 20 minutes!
You can imagine the blow to the writer’s self-confidence. This is exactly Rusch’s point. Most writers give up on their dreams after a semester of “creative writing” because they become so demoralised! Is this then where you should be spending your hard earned money?
The worst and the saddest part is that most of these critiques are from either wannabe writers themselves (who have probably not yet written a single page of anything that can be termed “creative”) or authors with a few books under their belt but with no idea of how the technique for writing a short story could be completely different from that of writing a novel.
Of course, you can argue that not all workshops are like that and I would readily agree. We sure cannot generalise but then you have to be careful about the type of workshop you choose. Check out their websites, meet their teachers, ask them about their training methods and consider whether it all suits your temperament (and your pocket) before you take out your credit card or cheque book. Be forewarned, however, that this can all be quite time consuming.
Writers assume that creative workshops can help them craft a perfect story which they cannot on their own. Well, the reality is that there is no such thing as a perfect story.
Practicing is the key to success. The more you write, the better your craft becomes.
The other fatal mistake writers make is when they don’t treat their writing career as a business. They don’t understand their industry and sign any contract with publishers that contains unreasonable terms and conditions restricting their growth as a writer.
This short book is definitely worth reading!
Even thirty-year veterans need to hear that writing is learned by doing, and perfectionism is deadly. We're hesitant to make our mistakes in public, but Rusch emphasizes the critical difference between "perfect" and "as good as I can make it right now." There are some critical insights here about the unhelpful things institutionalized in a lot of creative writing programs, that dovetail neatly with early-career writers' own sense that they're "not there yet."