There’s a wonderful debate/discussion going on in Comments under “Editing Notes” (three posts below.) I want to point out that there are two ways to approach creative writing. One way is writing for yourself – a journal, memoir and essays, an autobiography maybe for your family to read some day. Another approach is toward writing a book or an essay to be published. And I do workshops both ways.
At the Wellness Community no one is there to become a professional writer, they’re writing for therapy, for fun – yet who knows where it may go? We do five minutes writing exercises (inspired by published poems and memoir) that are then read aloud and never critiqued; everyone loves hearing what others have written, and are often helped by it. In a million years I wouldn’t point out clichés or anything to edit in that workshop.
In my UCLA Extension workshops it’s different (and that’s where the editing notes came from.) Students are paying a lot of money to learn how to write and to some day to be published. When students read in workshop we first address what’s wonderful about their writing in very specific terms. (No one gets away with “Oh, I just love it.”) What do you like about the writing and why? And then, again in very specific terms, we discuss how to improve the piece – what confused us, what could be cut, what could be added. Honesty and empathy (hey, we’re all in the same boat here) and encouragement are vital.
Again, dear readers, give yourself total freedom in your early drafts (as Anne Lamott calls them “the shitty first drafts”). Let the cute and coy clichés roll, be sentimental, or be obscure and murky, break every guideline or writing rule you’ve ever read or heard. Then – if you want to be published, get some feedback. And if need be, start rewriting and editing.