There’s an advertisement in the back of the current issue of Poets & Writers (on page 97, to be precise) for a new book called Against Workshopping Manuscripts. The ad is, to be generous, homemade-looking. The copy, in part, reads as follows: “Shall we admit that workshopping stymies the imagination? —Resulting in leathery thought and actual harm.”
The passive-aggressive quality of the first question makes me want to hurl the magazine across the room (Shall we admit that your copy jumps to conclusions about our opinions on the matter, and has the gall to presume that we are simply hiding them from the world, cowering in fear of conventional wisdom?); that odd and amateurish em dash makes me feel—how shall I put this?—more charitable, say; but the marvelously appealing image of thought being leathery (I want my thinking to be tough and waterproof, like tanned animal flesh!), and the idea that writing—poor, neglected writing!—could ever actually cause harm, in this bright and glaring universe of amphibious space tanks and night-vision sonar guns and street-legal off-road military transport vehicles and the kids, the kids, they’re killing each other every day with their poisoned school uniforms and samizdat mobile phones—and yet, looking at the website of this two-lady publishing operation, and seeing that this book (with its strangely generic ocean waves on the cover!) purports to challenge the hegemony of the workshop with “upper cortical re-entry” and “plucking wounded young people from the herd,” well, I am as charmed as I was when I first heard about the book People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead: How They Attach Themselves To Unsuspecting bystanders and what to do about it. Whether their conclusions involve wearing a tinfoil hat or not, I look forward to the neuroscience of us all becoming better writers, and getting this damn dead person off my back.