Earlier this year, I took writing classes with Sonia Sanchez. Next week, I will be in workshops lead by Binyavanga Wainaina. Today I am in a class with Eghosa Imasuen and Chimamanda Adichie has been teaching all week.
With each interaction with these accomplished authors, I have taken the opportunity to carefully construct new material as assigned, observe the examples chosen by the instructors, and put into practice the feedback and advice given regarding the art and practice of writing.
This process, however, would not be as effective and inspiring if not for one of the most vital entities of such learning environments: its students. My peers.
With any creative piece of work, as its creator, we are very protective and even defensive about the art that is born out of our souls. Generally, we are usually receptive to the opinions of professionals—taking their word as gospel regarding the formula in which we should write, the words to employ, and how tone, voice, and point of view has positively affected the work we have shared.
However, when it comes to building with others who come from different backgrounds and varying levels of expertise, our vulnerability heightens.
In writing workshops, trusting the other to respectfully critique your work while, in turn, delicately offering suggestions on how one can improve her/his creative piece is quite a balance.
This week, I, along with 21 other New African Writing Fellows, have opened our 8-9 hour workshop days with creative compositions that we have spent the previous night composing and perfecting. When we share our pieces, we are thoughtful about the other’s style and voice and we respond accordingly, working only to provide feedback to improve the flow and readability.
It is no small feat, actually. Sometimes, we are fighting for why we have chosen certain words while at other times, we are persuading our friends on why particular sections of a piece should be omitted or revised. It’s a BIG task before a writer further develops work, revises the work, and ultimately, submits the work. It takes writers who are just as BIG to both dish out and take in feedback that will help elevate the work.
This week, I am happy to be writing with Giants who understand that aspiring to be great at what we do should be no tall order.