A few years ago I took a memoir writing class. Each week I was required to read what I wrote. Unfortunately, at that time, I was not ready to have my writing critiqued. The first reading went well. The instructor and my peers praised my work and told me that my personal voice came through loud and clear. I was elated and I am afraid I was even a bit smug. I could not imagine that their praise would come to a halt or that their responses might differ as the class progressed.
I wasn’t confident enough with my writing to handle some really great constructive criticism that came my way. Instead, I became defensive. I now realize that this could have been an incredible learning experience for me if I had been prepared. But my defensiveness soon silenced my instructor and my peers.
There is no doubt that there is always the possibility that at least one member of a writing group will be unnecessarily critical in an attempt to build themselves up. However the more I interact with other writers the more I discover how sincere most of them are. As technology changes the rules in publishing and as publishers offer fewer services, I believe that writers need each other more than ever.
To gain from a critique of your peers, you must be ready to really listen to differing opinions; to recognize that comments are not a personal attack on you; and to accept that most comments are intended to be helpful. Also understand that you do not have to accept every criticism or change suggested by your peers. But do take time to really listen to their comments and think about them.
I think it is helpful if a writing critique group adopts parameters. This eliminates judgments based upon topics or ideals expressed. It also encourages everyone to focus on the writing.
Although I know a lot of writers frequently share their first draft, I am not usually one of them. I find that I get the most out of a group when I have edited out as many flaws as I can. That allows my peers to focus on what isn’t obvious to me.
I would love to hear about your experiences with writing groups.
Written for Three Word Wednesday: halt, differ, imagine.