This semester I was in a Fiction II Workshop, which I found to be very informative and fun. Did I know some of what the teacher tought? Yes, I did. Did I learn new stuff or gather new ideas as the class went a long? You betcha. Now, granted I’m older than most of these kids. They are in their early 20s, I’m in my early 30s, so I get our mentalities are a little different. We see the world through different lenses and more than likely, we learn in various ways.
What’s not cool? There’s some kids in the class who think they are God’s gift to the writing world. They don’t need critiques, they don’t need to edit, and they don’t need to get better. They are perfect as is.
For instance, today is the second to last day before the semester ends. We had to set up a revision plan for our second short story. Much of the conversation between these same students went something like:
“This is fucking bullshit. Why do I need a plan. We workshopped my piece, you told me what was wrong. I’ll fix it. I don’t need a second round of revisions, I’m a writer.”
At which point, I looked up, and raised a brow. I pointed out that in the real publishing world, there are multiple rounds of revisions, and you do need a plan on how to tackle them. Now, the Professor of course, wanted us to make a plan a certain way–which was to pick three things from the book and apply to how we want to revise. Not that difficult. Seriously, they were throwing a FIT.
Sure, there are multiple ways of revising, but they don’t seem to understand that they aren’t perfect writers. They have literally said things like:
“I’m not a fucking beginning writer.”
Sorry to burst your bubble there, sweetheart, but you kinda are. I’ve written several novels, have an agent, I’m on submission, (none of which they know about) and I STILL consider myself a beginning writer. There is so much I don’t know, and the reason I take these writing workshops is to learn upon the things I’m weak at or learn new tidbits and tricks on how to make my writing stronger.
I am absolutely just gobsmacked that these kids think they are so great. We all have things wrong with our pieces, which is why we get feedback. One round of revisions doesn’t make a piece perfect. That’s why we get MORE feedback.
The point is, I can’t believe at such a young age, they think they know everything there is to know about writing and no one can tell them different. They have talent, that’s not in question. The point is they have so much room to improve and just don’t seem to want to.
As an author I’ve seen many forms of elitism, and watching these kids just throw these tantrums, I can’t help but wonder. What happens if they do land a publishing deal? Are they going to become one of those smug, elite, jerks that we read about? The ones that attack people who give them a bad review, or turn around and every chance they get say, “As a published author myself…..” as if that makes them somehow better than everyone else.
Again, this isn’t all the kids in the workshop. Some of them are truly striving to better their craft, but some of them don’t realize that writing is always going to be a learning endeavor. They will never know everything. Yes, you may be a writer, but that doesn’t mean you are superior, that doesn’t mean you write well, and it certainly doesn’t mean you don’t have room for improvement.
I think the writers who are always striving to improve, who can listen to feedback, and realize that no one is a perfect writer, are going to be the ones who become great. The ones who think they’re already good enough, well…I have a feeling they’re going to find themselves stuck in the muck of a deep trench that they created for themselves.
Here’s to hoping they realize it sooner rather than later.