Revelations in the Contrast by Tiarri Washington

After the first few weeks of school we in Creative Writing begin to workshop our summer work. I imagine, without much investigation, that this can be a disquieting time for anyone. It’s the moment where you bare your work to the eyes of a daunting few; a genuine exchange of detailed critique, solid, enlightening suggestions, and thorough ideas for revision. A test of endurance as the lucky author sits idly in silence as indifferent marks against paper encourage an anxious sweat from their temples.

I, being a sophomore, stumbled into this school year dreading workshopping in person, after doing it online for a year. There’s something so indifferent about sharing my screen and having my audience’s heads reduced to small, unobtrusive squares on the side of my document. Comfort in how their monotone voices didn’t seem personal because Zoom fatigue had gripped us all so late in the day. 

In person, making eye contact with the people of my group as our names were written in uniform, punctual curls on the white board, felt inescapable. The dwindling marker sealing my fate for the day. On the first day, my group sat on the wooden benches in the quad, and workshopped while listening to the tuning instruments of Orchestra. We sat and listened to the soothing strings and occasional belch of an intrusive kazoo. Soon, my poem was next and after the palpable silence, someone spoke and discussion started flowing. I looked the first person in the eye and received their praise and criticism with appreciation. I looked to the next and mentally noted and answered their suggestions and questions. I observed their body language and acknowledged how my work flowed through them. I straightened my posture and replied with a firm “thank you!” after every comment, no longer hiding from whatever they had to say. 

I understand now that despite the blissful detachment Zoom presented me with, sincerity was lost. Only sitting in the cold, three slabs of antiquated, green wood separating me from them, am I able to fully accept their comments. I value looking at someone and taking their comments in good faith. I understand that workshop will only ever be what I make of it. From this point forward I intend to squeeze it to its full potential.

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