Communication, as a process of human interrelation, is a reality that we cannot hide in any way. To establish a dialogue, for example, it is necessary to establish a communication channel through which words with the meaning flow, which form sentences with syntactic congruence and concordance between their parts and which, potentially, have the capacity to strengthen a sensitive and rational link between sender and receiver, that is, to create reciprocity through a message. If this is achieved, the idea or sensation that is to be expressed is not just a simple accumulation of empty words, that is to say, outside a semantic context, but in the strict sense as a fundamental element of dialogic expression.
A creative writing workshop is an open space where those ideas, facts, and sensations expressed through writing can be exposed and, above all, corrected; the texts read and polished finally become literature. We know this definition as "workshopping" a literary text.
What is the purpose of a literary workshop?
In the elaboration of any type of project, it is necessary, as a methodological premise, to include a section in which the objective or intention of the proposal is stated. This purpose, which in simple terms is not the essence of everything because sometimes it just does not exist (in the arts, for example), in a literary workshop could be reduced, although it may be a paradox, to a simple and complex word: communication.
The aim is to achieve a legible and accurate understanding of what has been written, in any literary genre, be it short story, tale, poem, chronicle, essay, article, pamphlet, etcetera.
The readability of the text will revolve around each of the parts of grammar, which are basically semantics, syntax, morphology, phonology, and orthography. It is important to know the basics of our grammar because, even if we do not write creative texts, it transcends our daily lives and plays a fundamental role in our most common form of communication, spoken language.
Literature is not misanthropy. Refusing to show what we write in our notebooks, in our diaries, does not turn us into misanthropists; we are not hermits and that attitude does not show rejection or aversion against humanity. By writing we recognize that we exist and, at that moment, we become aware of our humanism and the need to live in society.
That is why Swift's Gulliver is not a misanthrope but a philosopher in the deepest sense of Platonic duality; that is why Lautrémont, although he speaks ill of his world, is a product of his own society; who would Socrates be without Plato; what would peoples be if there were no historical texts that create a collective memory, the awareness of a reality not invented but transcended temporarily.
What we do not want in the end, and although this may seem extreme, it could be the case, is to reach the society that Ray Bradbury once dreamed of in Fahrenheit 451, a novel in which the person who read -whatever it was- was a criminal and where the firemen, instead of putting out fires, burned all the existing books. If it came to this, the only thing left would be to apply Descartes' famous phrase, I think, therefore I am; the weapons would be our senses and finally, as Borges would say, memory.
How does it work?
The way of working in a creative writing workshop is very simple. In all workshops, there is a coordinator, who is the person in charge of the session, as well as the members of the workshop, who invariably participate with personal opinions and criticisms about the texts read during the meeting. Let it be noted that the aim is not to make destructive criticisms so that the person criticized will never write anything again in his or her entire life. This is not what is intended. The criticism should be formative and based on arguments, that is, it should not be visceral but objective and propositive.
Class by class, a selection is made of the students who will read texts for the following session, and these will have the obligation to bring sets of photocopies of their text so that all classmates have it and can also follow the corrections made to the student who at that moment is carving his text. Parallel to the workshop, dynamics, and readings of basic literary texts of recognized authors can be carried out, which will help the student's cultural and intellectual formation.
What do you get out of a creative writing workshop?
A lot. Just think of the balance that would be achieved. The need for expression is a human quality and what better satisfaction than full and complete communication with others. On the other hand, young students in elementary and high school go out into a reality that has nothing to do with the one they have lived in, which is normally measured in terms of competitiveness. We would be reduced - de facto - to the old Hamlet dilemma, to be or not to be. Writing is something fundamental to life in every sense. How sad it is to see a professional who cannot do a trade or who has spelling mistakes in the writing of a letter; it is simply unacceptable.
Finally, the most important reason for a workshop is the development of sensitivity. The person who reads and realizes that he also has something to say and vice versa is the one who has found the balance between his person, nature, and society; the evolution of perception is the most important thing in any human being. It is a reality that is, that is, that accompanies us like a shadow, as a ghostly presence and that, unfortunately, is rejected a priori because we do not know it.
Now, as the very name of the workshop indicates, "literary creation", the intention is that from this development of sensitivity, young people can create new situations, circumstances that reflect a certain reality, but that, by taking distance on a sheet of paper, that worldview, experience or anecdote is transformed and becomes creative work, something new that comes out of the head of a person. Many times, literature becomes a canon, a social order that has a civilizing and unifying function, such is the case of Shakespeare and Milton in the Anglo-Saxon world or Cervantes for Spanish-speaking countries.
To conclude, an anecdote about Jorge Luis Borges comes to mind. Once, in an interview, Borges was asked what poetry was for. The Argentine master, already blind, answered that whenever he was asked this question, the following questions came to his mind: what is sunrise for, what is the smell of coffee for, what is the face of a beautiful woman for, what is a beautiful woman's face for?
Author: Carlos Antonio de la Sierra