This post is from Carrie of Views from Nature.
Writing is a solitary activity. Just you and your choice of writing implement, be it a pen or a keyboard. The bigger issue is actually being alone to write freely.
I’m sure many of you can relate to my own personal guilt: a desire to step away from everything and just write. Ignore the kids clambering at your feet for a snack, shove the dog out the door so you can’t hear him whine, pretend that huge stack of breakfast dishes or unfolded pile of laundry doesn’t exist…
It doesn’t happen very often. So my writing is quickly done in the few snippets I can capture. I hardly edit beyond fixing typos and grammar issues (and even those I miss sometimes). And some pieces never get feedback or comments due to my own fear of being told I suck as a writer.
Joining the Red Dress Club and participating in the prompts was my first step to seeking feedback. I hoped to get some valuable comments so I could judge whether or not what I was creating was interesting, clever, or different. I also strived to improve my own critiquing skills to give others feedback. While the “I love this!” and “Great job” comments are lovely, they don’t really help improve a piece.
This, I find, is the biggest problem with online writing groups. Great in theory but it’s difficult to get the constructive criticism you might be looking for. Especially when there are so many people participating. It is physically impossible to get to everyone and to actually leave a good comment.
My husband suggested I find an actual writing class. So I searched the local universities and colleges. Sadly, most of the classes ran during the day since they were designed for people who were students, not full-time working moms who wanted an evening class.
Finally I stumbled across a writing critique group with the local city recreation program. One night a week I would be able to sit in a room with like minded people and discuss writing. I could share some of my pieces and get the critique I needed to go to the next level. In return I offered some of my insight to a member’s shared piece.
These people were all in the group for the same reason: they wanted to get feedback/critique. They were creative nonfiction writers, technical writers, and fiction writers. Some were just beginning; some were established and well known. Some had been published; others were launching the process towards publication.
They all wanted to improve their writing. And for two and a half hours, that’s all we did. There were no children needing dinner. There was no laundry to be washed. It was just about the writing.
I received such valuable insight to my work. I managed to improve and really strengthen a piece I wanted to submit to a writing contest (sadly I didn’t win said contest). And by reading my work aloud I could hear if the sentences flowed (or not) and easily picked up the repetition of words. Unfortunately, my group is over until fall but I will be signing up the first day registration opens.
Technology is helping us to be more connected but I think it is also isolating us more as well. Take a chance and find a real live group of people to read your writing to. You never know what might come of it.