A respectful, thorough critique of a peer’s work is the cornerstone of an MFA program. Solitary work has its place in the writerly life, but the vast majority of us who write want others to see it and be moved, be changed.
Three important things are accomplished through workshop:
1. You receive a variety of feedback about your work, which you will learn to filter as useful toward your intention for the piece or not.
2. You sharpen your skills as a reader and enter the discourse of literature.
3. You find yourself within a community of writers, an invaluable thing that extends past graduation from your MFA program.
Your critique and close reading of workshop pieces should be a response to the writing itself, the piece of work in front of you—not a response to the writer, not a proclamation of your personal taste or beliefs as related to this piece, and not simply a pat on the back. Give useful, respectful comments, in a way in which you would like to receive them yourself, about your own work.