Getting Into The Groove
I’VE RECENTLY DONE SOMETHING that I’ve done only once before. I hope it goes better this time. I’ve joined a Writer’s Group.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term – A Writer’s Group is a gathering of writers who come together to help and support each other with constructive criticism and encouragement. At least that is how I’ve always thought of a group. In my past it hasn’t worked out that way.
A number of years ago I was part of a group that conveniently met in my neighborhood in San Francisco. There were about ten of us who met every two weeks. We would pass out copies of things we were working on and offer critiques of works that we had been reading since the last meeting. Looking back I can now see the basic flaws that doomed the group.
The range of experience in that group was a problem. There were some writers who had never written anything beyond school assignments and others who had published short fiction and novels. Not to denigrate those less experienced, but they had never had honest peer criticism of their work. They didn’t know how to take it and profit from it. Their skins were very thin. And the criticism they offered was really quite useless. They either fawned over something or just couldn’t effectively express their thoughts. There were times when someone in the group was either in tears or ready to start throwing punches.
Because of this, people came and went from the group. There was no consistency. Groups work the best, I think, when you have some parity among the participants and an understanding of how to both give and take an honest critique. It ain’t always easy.
The group that I have joined recently is quite new. I showed up at their second meeting. One other person was also there for the first time. The group is being moderated by a woman who is with the public library. There are now ten people involved. I hope it doesn’t get any bigger or it can become unmanageable with too much to read and not enough time for meeting to discuss it all.
The ages of the group members range from college age to a couple of retired folks – one of them being me. Most of the people appear to be in the thirty to forty years of age range. This is, in and of itself, meaningless, but it can possibly indicate someone’s experience. We shall see.
I don’t want this to sound snobbish, or demeaning to newer writers. We are all at that point at sometime in our creative life. I just carry bad memories from San Francisco.
One very positive sign for this group is that the Moderator passed out information on how to give and take criticism without it being meaningless or painful. Hopefully everyone will read and follow her direction.
We are meeting only once a month and this will give everyone the time to really read the submitted material and make notes.
I really hope this group works out. When they work, they can be invaluable to a writer. Another pair of eyes can see things you can never see for yourself. With works in progress it can act like having an editor on the fly.
The first piece I submitted to the group is one I wrote as a performance piece and now I want to translate it to the page. They are two different animals to be sure. This is why so many people have trouble reading Shakespearian plays. Those plays were written to be heard, not read. There are so many differences between the two forms.
Oh, well – time will tell if this Writer’s Group will work or fail. I hope it works because I can use the encouragement it can offer. It can get me into a groove where I actually work every day, not just when the mood hits.
This would be a handy introduction for anyone considering joining or forming a critique group. Everything you say is on-target.
Thanks for your comment. A writer’s Group can be a wonderful thing or a thorn on your paw. It all depends on the “who” and the “how” of it.