I belong to a writer’s group. We meet on Wednesdays in Cuenca, Ecuador from 12:00 to 3:00 at a local restaurant. Most of us arrive early to eat lunch before we begin. Now, I’ve belonged to quite a few groups, starting way back in my early college days…Groups where the individuals were so focused on showing how much they know about writing, groups where they are so ready not only to tell you how to write, but what you should write about. Most of these groups were pretty useless to me, but I did pick up some valuable things from them. The problem was I didn’t stay long, the sessions were a grueling exercise of slash and burn critique, clashing egos, and, in the end, dispiriting.
This group works! We bring material…no more than 1500 words, must bring copies, double spaced, readable font, which we pass out to everyone. After the writer reads his/her selection we go around the table and comment. Comments are the personal opinion of the speaker and for the most part stated as such. Very few “must, should, can’t” statements. More “I would like more…I wonder…I don’t understand…statements.”
The hard part for me when I first joined was that the writer is not allowed to speak, no explanations…just sit there and listen. That now is my favorite thing about the group, that and getting the copies back with everyone’s notes on them. Not being able to respond, defend, explain, what I was doing forces me to listen and hear what the reader is reading in my work, not what I meant to write. It’s good for me. It works. I am writing more and I am writing better.
Try it, join a group, one that actually gets together in person, or online. Find one that works for you.