Writing Group Revelation: We are SO alike

Howdy all!  My apologies for the blog-silence of the last few days, but I've been on 'spring break' both literally and mentally.  While I know it goes against the Blogger's Bible, I think it's good to take step back from time-to-time.  I always seem to come back with fresh ideas and a greater appreciation for the process in general.  At any rate, after loads of yard work and house chores, I'm ready to settle back into my comfy chair and do a little writing.

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.

~EJW~

17 comments:

  1. I wish that we had a weekly writer meet-up in my area. I haven't been able to find one. If only transporters had been invented (like the kind on Star Trek), then all of us that share like minds could meet up once a week in an instant.

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  2. I had to miss the first meeting of a writer's group here. I was really excited and had my pages typed out, but it was crazy--I was sweating and nervous and feeling inferior...then I had car issues and couldn't go. I'm so glad you posted about your experience, so I could share some of the thought process!

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  3. Loved it. Great writing. Nice blog design too.

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  4. I love the new "curtains". And I love your line "we are all fish in the same neurotic pond". Good luck with your writers group. Finding a good one is a wonderful thing!

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  5. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) for me, I don't have to fear other criticism from others because no one could possibly be as hard on me as I am on myself. ;)

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  6. I go to my critique group every other week. Constructive critism is good. I'd look like an idiot if I didn't go. Write and learn.

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  7. We are a nervous, twitchy breed. You really distilled down so many of our fears and idiosyncrasies. :)

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  8. I think writers are very aware of how crazy we can be, but we sometimes think it only applies individually. We're just as nuts in a group! :-)

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  9. I'm glad you found a new group in SA. I've yet to reach out to folks here in Nashville. But I think you also made a good point about the woman with something against commas. The more you work with someone the more you learn their own preferences which are just products from their style.

    It's like when we realized that you like semicolons and I don't; you learn which particular grain of salt to take with each review.

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  10. Interesting post. Would be cool if you could keep a running thread of how things develop in the group (no names mentioned of course).

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  11. Good for you! Tonight will be my third time at a six week writing workshop and oh how I know your fear! Last week I read for the first time and didn't keel over after the fact. I envy you that you have joined an ongoing group. After my workshop is done, I'm going to have to seek an (in person) group out...(and at some point submit something to my new on-line group too! :))

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  12. Nervous and twitch breed, huh? Unfortunately I can't disagree.

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  13. Yeah...that's true. We are a nervous breed. . .sometimes the "crazies" are just too strong to ignore. Great post!

    P.S. Pop by my blog when you have a chance. I've got a gift waiting for you.

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  14. @ Ravi - Yeah, they probably thought that I was crazy, because I kept mentioning how my 'other' writing group had moved away! I guess based upon my post, I am kind of crazy. (In a writerly way.) :-)

    I'm a huge proponent of online groups, but I do think you lose some of the camaraderie that you get from a live group.

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  15. Haha, nice :D Writing groups can be really hit or miss, I've found. Sounds like you've found a group of kindred spirits! My local meetup actually had kind of the opposite problem... lots of people willing to critique, but not many willing to read their own work!

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  16. Dude...
    How come almost everything you say rings true with me?
    You did again.
    I've been working hard at being relaxed when my work is being critiqued. Plus when I give feedback I try not to forget about the good stuff either.

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  17. Personally, I think a short story is harder to write than a novel. You did a good job with the assignment, though. :)

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“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky