You might have noticed that I changed the curtains on the blog. I was way overdue for a remodel, and think it better fits where I intend to take the blog in the coming months. Your thoughts?
I did get up to one major writing related activity last week. I attended a new local writer's Meetup. I've been a part of writing groups before (both 'live' and online), so you'd think I'd be acclimated to the process. Nope. I was as nervous as a long-tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs. AND I WASN'T EVEN SHARING MY WRITING!
It's a small group format (there were 7 of us), and you critique 3 works by other participants for every 1 work you submit for critique. I like that method as it prevents 1 person from constantly having their work read/critiqued without offering feedback on others (something I've experienced before). This being my first meeting, I read the 3 works offered and set off with my typed notes in hand.
As I pushed on the cold glass-faced door of the business office we were using for our meeting, I realized that my palms were covered in a sheen of cold sweat. I was also gripping my notes tightly enough to cause carpal tunnel. Quite inexplicably, I found that I was terrified at the prospect of meeting other writers.
Now I'm definitely one to enjoy his 'own' time, but I do have degrees in counseling and psychology and believe that I'm something of a people person when I put my mind to it. So it wasn't some anti-social fear welling up within me. I was simply afraid to declare myself as a 'writer' to a group of strangers who had also declared themselves as scribes. Moreover, I was really afraid they'd think my feedback was offensive, absurd or altogether unprofessional. After all, I'm no Hemingway.
After exchanging pleasantries with the hostess/group founder I was quickly put at ease. She mentioned how new the group still was, and that the first 2 meetings had been fairly stiff because people seemed afraid to take their thoughts too far or share too much. I took my seat reassured that I wasn't the only Nervous Ned. One-by-one the members shuffled in and exchanged nervous greetings, giving each other shifty glances that back-room arms dealers might recognize. I smiled at last; these were my kind of people!
WRITERS ARE MASOCHIST WHO FEAR CRITICISM ABOVE ALL ELSE, YET SEEK FEEDBACK LIKE A PLANT YEARNS FOR SUNLIGHT.
We are a nervous and twitchy breed, full of baseless fears and conspiratorial thoughts. "Look at the way she's judging me; THAT WOMAN HAS SOMETHING AGAINST COMMAS, I KNOW IT! If they see an adverb, I'm toast!" What I realized, watching each person prepare for their feedback as if they were facing down a firing squad, is that we're all the same. We are kindred spirits. Like awkward cousins at the family reunion, we're going to find each other and we're going to realize that we are more alike than we ever could have imagined.
When it comes to feedback, we are afraid of the same things and we want to hear the same things. Above all, we believe that the stories we write are not some kind of entity that exists in isolation outside of us. They are a part of us--an extension--and any judgement of their worth or quality is somehow a reflection of our own quality or worth. While some may swim a little better than others, we are all fish in the same neurotic pond, trying desperately to navigate the murky waters of our deepest thoughts and emotions.
I think what truly distinguishes us is our ability to balance those fears and anxieties against the scrutiny of evaluation. It's our willingness and ability to learn--most often through trial and error--that separates the successful from the unsuccessful. With that in mind, I think I can go to our next meeting with a little more confidence.