In my instructions for my writing workshops, I ask those whose piece is under discussion to remain quiet.
The writer does not take part in the discussion except by my invitation. Though this may suggest a courtroom atmosphere where the writer and her work are on trial, the workshop is something else entirely—a chance for the writer to discover how her readers’ experience aligned with her intentions. Her silence aids her in that process.
Indeed, if anyone is the judge, it’s the writer. The readers are witnesses whose testimony about the experience of reading illuminates for her what worked and what needs further attention.
When your work is being discussed, listen and take notes. Though you may be frustrated when readers have misread or misunderstood some aspect your work, leaping into the discussion stops you from discovering the extent of their misunderstanding. By letting them air their misunderstanding and confusion, you will have a better sense of how to revise your work.
Only by listening can the artist make sense of what the testimony has actually told her.
Testimony worth listening to — The Dave Holland Quartet, "Conference of the Birds."
The witnesses . . .
Thank you for reading.