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Friday, February 29, 2008

Writers groups: the main ingredient

If you want to make serious progress along the writing road, then you need to be in a writers group, a.k.a. a critique group.

That is easier said than done.

I am blessed--and I chose the word "blessed" because that's exactly what I mean--to be in a writers group for five years. I would not be where I am today as a writer without my writers group. I am writing regurlary. I am publishing regularly. I have a book on the bookshelves and articles coming out in publications I am proud of. I am a better writer than I was 5 years ago.

That said, being in a writers group is not easy. Why? Because there are other people in the group. And each person has a personality--and sometimes those personalities blend like your favorite selection at Starbucks. And sometimes they don't.

When they don't--Yuck. A critique group is about as pleasant as taking a sip of coffee and filling your mouth with the bitter dregs of the bottom of the pot.

The main ingredient for any successful critique group is trust. It's not the writing ability of all the members. It's not finding the best time to meet or even the best place to meet. It's knowing that you are safe with one another.

Let's face it: Writing is about pouring blood, sweat and tears out onto paper so that they forms words and sentences and paragraphs--and ultimately they become an article or a book. And when I am bleeding and sweating and crying, I want to know I am safe.

I want my critique group to accept me when my writing is rough and unedited and lousy. And I want them to help me to believe I am a good writer and that I can craft this draft into a smooth, polished article that is "singing." (That's what my group says when an article is on-target.)

But if I am going to show other writers my first drafts, which usually contain too many "buts" and "justs" and no conclusion to speak of and a rabbit trail or two, then I need to know I can trust them. I need to know they are not going to critique me into embarrasssed silence or make me feel inferior. I need to know that, as my writers group says, "they've got my back." That in some odd way they care about this article almost as much as I do.

I'll be talking about writers groups in the next few posts. Maybe Scoti and Tiffany will chime in. Anyone else out there is invited to join the discussion. What's your writers group like?

5 comments:

Tiffany Stuart said...

I wrote about my thoughts about being in a writers group on my Thankful Thursday yesterday. You two bless me.

Trust is a key factor for me.

I'm learning I trust people, but only so far. I want to be all "me" and still be accepted. I think for me writing is an expression of my heart, so if it's not good, I start to believe I'm not good or acceptance.

Lies die hard.

Thanks Beth and Scoti for caring about me and my writing.

Scoti Springfield Domeij said...

I'm currently writing honestly about single parenting issues. I feel vulnerable and need to know that my writer's group is my safe place. It's scary to be honest in a world that idolizes masks. If my writer's group ceases to be safe, I shut down. If I'm not free to put on paper what others want to hear, then my writer's voice and God's purpose for my life is stifled. I need honest people in my life who aren't afraid to say, "I'm not perfect. This is my struggle."

Beth K. Vogt said...

And thanks to Scoti for pointing out that I misspelled "embarrassed" on this post.
And, yes,I am embarrassed about that.
I always misspell that word.
I shoulda' checked.
But it's now corrected.

;o)
Thanks, Scoti, for watching my back.

Dinos said...

Attention!

NathanKP said...

For me the writing group at Writersmuster.com has been very supportive and helpful.

NathanKP

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