Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
I hope you all had a good weekend. I know I certainly did! And, in fact, today I'm here to talk about part of my weekend -- my first (in a while) group writing critique.
A few weeks ago, at my weekly writing group, my friends and I discussed reviewing stories for others, and somehow that was translated to reviewing each other's work. I'll admit, the idea made me nervous, because of course we are always nervous to have our work picked apart, but I had been entertaining the idea of finding a critique group or BETA for a long while, and when the idea was presented, I knew I couldn't say no.
Our group is pretty diverse, and not just in writing styles. We have a far-away engineer, a college professor, a fabulous artist, a school teacher who sometimes pops up...and me; we all have different styles, and interest, and yet we can all agree on some things, and we share bits of fascination with stories. I really couldn't ask for a better review group, but still that fear lingered in the pit of my stomach.
It's difficult to get used to criticism. You would think after years of time in the theatre, I would be used to it, but somehow to me, critique on writing seems so much different -- or perhaps it's that I've been away from the stage for so long, because looking back I can remember that same, asphyxiating fear. Through years of publishing, I've become used to people I don't know, who I will probably never know, critiquing my work, and most of the time I don't pay too much attention to them, but it's different when it's your friends, people you know closely enough to really respect.
Needless to say, the first week after our talk I didn't bring anything in for review. I had a legitimate excuse -- my printer was dead -- but I was relieved none the less, because I didn't have to go first. One of my other friends, whose work I've read before, brought in some things for us to read, and I was happy to see (a bit selfishly, maybe, but I'm only human) that she was nervous, too.
As time lapsed between our next full group meeting, I tried to talk myself into being brave, not being scared of what they might say. And then finally I made a decision: I was going to do this, scared or not, because it was going to help me, my writing, and it would help my friends, too.
It's the moments we follow through on our decisions, not the moments we make them, that make all of the difference.
Peer review is great, because you learn things as you're reading someone else's work, and you learn things from friend's reading yours. You can throw ideas around, and get feedback, and you grow closer together, I think, from sharing in the world of your friend's creative universe.
The most recent morning of writing group, I was still terrified -- but I printed my chapter out, added paper clips to the copies, wrote my friend's names on the top (I'm a bit OCD), and put those copies in a folder to bring. Once there, I told myself again that I would give them to my friends, that they wouldn't just sit there in my bag. When I pulled them out and handed them to said friends, and reviewed the work I was to read in turn, I was extremely nervous, my hands shaking the entire time. When we went over what they had marked on my work, I was red-faced with embarrassment, and laughing at my silly "mistakes". It was heart-wrenching, in a way, but I survived -- and more than that, I had a good time.
It really is good to be able to laugh at yourself.
My friends helped me to see that no work is perfect right off the bat, and that that's okay. Room for improvement is okay. Going back and editing -- once, twice, ten or twenty times, until you're satisfied enough, because you're never completely satisfied -- is okay.
Sharing your work is okay.
Don't be afraid to give your work to those you trust for them to read it. You never know what new thoughts they might lead you to, and in the end, it will make you a better writer -- what you really should be concerned about.
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