Although it will sound so, this is not a self-help, feel good thing. It is, however, true. After exhausting myself of ways to get something out of the workshops I decided that I was going at it ass backwards and chose to give as much as I could. If the workshop required submitting work to be critiqued I picked something I was interested in working on but did not go in committed to getting anything specific but rather to be as selfless and committed to giving others all the help I could once I got there. Any help I received was a bonus. This was a breakthrough. I enjoyed the workshops much more and gained a far deeper appreciation of the others in the group and the work they were doing. I did not find them any better as poets but I did find them genuinely interested and harder working than I had given them credit for. The payoff for me has been and remains that I have learned to read my own poems more critically and that, despite my somewhat jaundiced attitude, I have learned to be a far better coach, teacher and writer than I otherwise might have been. So, my advice is that beyond the first couple you attend if you want to enroll in workshops, enroll for what you can give, not what you can get.
In the next post I will discuss where to go to get the help not provided by workshops.