Thursday, March 6, 2008

Think the Best of Others

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 NIV

When I was the editor of a large project, I hired editors and writers with natural ability, but no professional experience. My goal for them? By the end of the project that they would

* improve their skills.
* gain confidence about their giftings.
* add qualifications to their resumes to assure better jobs.

I enjoyed teaching and encouraging them. When they obtained better positions, I rejoiced and felt proud.

Over five years ago, I knew that if I was going to get serious about my writing that I needed accountability and encouragement. I formed a writing critique group for these reasons:

* to motivate each other to write
* to be a safe place to share our hearts
* to provide professional-quality critiques
* to encourage each other to hone writing skills
* to celebrate each other being published

What I did not expect were the painful ups and downs, such as:

* Personalities that do not mesh no matter how hard you try.
* Jealousy among members.
* Disrespectful, negative attitudes.
* Takers who do not give as much as they receive.
* Controlling individuals determined to hold the group hostage.
* Folks needing an emotional support group, not a writing critique group.
* Personal issues that gobble up valuable critiquing time.
* Hurt feelings by writers who want to join but the group is full.
* Demeaning gossip from people outside the group.

Each time our group faced a challenge, it forced the core members to refocus and refine, “What is our purpose as writers and for this group? Are the group dynamics pulling us away from accomplishing those goals?”

To me the first priority of a writing critique group is to think highly of each other. The spirit of a writing critique group will make or break a writing critique group: It determines whether it is a place where grace abounds and dreams come true.

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