Are they beneficial and helpful, or stressful and frustrating? Both!
Several years ago, when the idea of writing my first novel was conceived into my soul, I joined an online writing group called CritiqueCircle.com. I was excited to be in a group of like-minded individuals, where most understood me. Having no other writers in my family, most not even casual readers, I felt odd, alone and most often without a voice. Explaining something creative in a room full of pragmatists is frustrating and fruitless; beautiful words bouncing off empty walls.
Watching how the critique process flowed, I began to offer my own opinions, suggestions and edits to those bravely submitted story chapters. It didn’t take long, before I gained the courage to submit a sample of my own work – offering it like a sacrificial lamb to be slaughtered, mutilated, dissected, inspected, judged and criticized. That takes a lot of courage, because submitted work is part of the author’s imagination; part of their soul; their interpretation of life around them, displayed in artistic form with black-lettered font. It was brutal. It was bloody. It hurt.
If you want to see an example of courage, faith and determination, visit an online critique group. Because it’s filled with people who set themselves up to get knocked down as a form of training, and choose to get back up, shake the dust off, make adjustments, and then offer themselves up once again. The weak will cave to the pressure. The stubborn will break or leave. The determined will persevere. The arrogant will be humbled. The student will become the teacher.
The best thing that ever happened to my writing ability, was subjecting it to criticism. I learned from my mistakes, edits, suggestions, and critiques. I also learned to trust my instincts and hold to my convictions. I trained my critical mind to work in conjunction with my creative mind. Mostly, I learned that trial and error is the best training tool.
It’s been years since I’ve been fully involved in an online critique group, because since publication, I’ve focused on marketing; building my writing career and moving it forward. However, this past week I delved once again in an online group called Scribophile, and discovered critical creative muscles were a little out of shape. It didn’t take me but a few days to get back into the swing of things. I can’t express how fulfilling it felt. It not only offered me an opportunity to sow some of what I’ve learned over the past few years into budding writers, but allowed me to feel the excitement of learning. Being around a bunch of excited new writers, filled with hope, dreams and expectation, is exhilarating. Much better than being in a room full of literary elites who forgot writing started as a dream.
For published alumni who wish to sharpen their skills, or dreamers who want to develop them, visit an online critique group.
Till next time,