Loud And Vague

I wish I could take credit for the title of this post.  I can’t.  It was spoken by Enaj,  one of the members of my writing workshop.  I can’t remember the context in which it was said….but our entire group fell in love with the dichotomy it posed.  For my part, I couldn’t help but wish that I had used it as the name of my blog (Believe me, ironicman is not what I’d like to be either called or known as). We also thought it would be a great name for a law firm–imagine:  “Hello, you’ve reached the offices of Loud and Vague. Can I help you?”      

About my workshop group.  We are the remnants of an organized class that we all took together….there are eight or nine of  us.  A very disparate group, mostly women and mostly young (at least, a lot  younger than I am).  It’s a bit disappointing, but I’m not the oldest member.   But, as with every writing class/workshop that I’ve ever  been a part of, I am certainly the oldest man.  Being an anomaly is not something I set out to become….but  I take to it fairly well and with a certain amount of grace, I like to think.     

The people in my  workshop  are very smart, interesting people who also have something to say.    I’m not being artificially nice here just because they might read this.  They won’t.  (For reasons unknown to me, they are not  regular readers of the blog).   We meet every two or three weeks at one another’s houses on a rotating basis.  The thing is…. lately, it’s become much more of a  social group.  Less and less writing is going on–more and more eating and drinking.  As a matter of fact,  there’s more writing going on in my drinking workshop than in my writing one.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing; if you’re like me, you know how hard it is to make new friends   So…any port in a storm. 

 I’ve included a photo of the group…taken by timer with Aswini’s camera (it looks like I’ve tried to protect her identity, but I haven’t).  I don’t know how she did it, but most of us in the photo look so much less attractive than we are.  I think she must be using an Ugli camera (off-brand) she got in Cambridge (UK) where she’s now studying.  Aswini is the youngest member group; despite that, she and I get along really well.  In fact, if I were thirty years younger, Indian, smarter, lived overseas and a few other things….well….  it’s that close.       

The most important part of any workshop (after the food) is the critique and analysis offered by one’s peers.  It’s best to check your defensiveness at the door (a skill I’m still learning). The following is something I wrote about another workshop I was in.  It applies to this one as well.  (It’s so cool having my own blog–I get to quote myself.)    

     A number of years ago, a woman  I was seeing invited me to a wine tasting being held by a wine club she belonged to.    I’d been to tastings before, but none were anything like this.  I found myself in a private room of an Upper West Side restaurant with about a dozen oenophiles.   Not only were they serious, they were joyless, as well.  This is not a setting in which I shine.   We were there to evaluate Bordeaux’s. The labels were hidden; we all sipped the various wines and offered our critiques. The comments included some of the descriptions I’m familiar with, “fruity, oaky, complicated, tannic, etc.”  But along with these I heard “it tastes like a left bank Bordeaux”.  I know I’m a boob about this stuff so I didn’t say anything, but I remember thinking that which bank it came from  might depend upon which way you’re facing, no?  The descriptions became more and more esoteric culminating in a description of one wine as being “angular.”   If I didn’t know it before, I now understood that I was in way over my head.  When, it was my turn to give an opinion, I usually muttered something oh-so sophisticated like, “Liked it.  I liked the way it tastes”. 

   When I’m offering  critiques in  my writing workshop, I often feel that my remarks don’t have much more depth or nuance than “I like the way it tastes.”  Yes, of course there’s the tried and true “show, don’t tell” but frankly, my own experience with hearing that criticism has soured me on its use.   The other members of the workshop have a much better handle on this—-they have very reasoned ideas for their comments and I envy their insights and incisiveness.  I’m sorely lacking in this area.   Just to save face, I may need to pass along a comment along the lines of:  “I found your essay very full-bodied, tawny and somewhat angular. Keep up the good work.”  


"The almost writing writers workshop"


4 Responses to “Loud And Vague”

  1. Julie Says:

    Wow, our workshop has made the big time! But what’s this about an ugly photo? I think we look adorable!

  2. iron(ic)man triathlon Says:


    well…not exactly the big time….but still something. i tried to be really careful here….you and some of the others look amazingly adorable. some of us, not so much so.

    glad you chimed in. (altho it kind of belies my remarks that no one from our group reads this).

    see you soon…..

  3. other jane Says:

    Greeetings from Loud and Vague. (Maybe I should be writing in bold italic in an unreadable typeface to maintain the theme.)
    As for the photo—well, it doesn’t look like a recruiting tool for the writers group. I can’t imagine anyone saying, “gee, they are so cool; I want to be one of them.”
    And—-Neil—your comments are as helpful (perceptive, sophisticated, sensitive, etc,) as anyone else’s.

  4. iron(ic)man triathlon Says:

    jane…that’s nice of you to say.

    on the other hand, you’re in a lot of trouble if anyone of our ‘teammates’ read your remarks about the photo as a ‘recruiting tool’. glad i didn’t say that. fortunately, you’ve used some kind of hidden identity. very smart.

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