Writing Without a Net: Help For the New Writeron January 31, 2011 at 9:30 am
Perhaps, as a writer, you’ve worked it out. Yes, writing is solitary, lonely. You know that even when you’ve cultivated a circle of local friends who share your dreams and passions—or rather, their own versions of them—even when you’ve joined a club or professional organization, even when you’ve got 3000 writer friends on Facebook, you work alone.
After awhile you get used to the idea that the production side of your work cannot be shared.
But, what about when you’ve crafted what at first look feels like a polished chapter? What about when you’ve written the perfect descriptive passage, or created a startling scene, what if you’ve written the finest paragraph of your life? What next?
Perhaps the worst thing you can do—and hang on for the “why?”—is to go running from your office, your loft, your garret, your writer’s nook and share it with a non-writer family member or friend.
Why not? If you are fortunate enough to have someone in your life who really has an interest in your work—for some of you this will not be the case—their response to what you’ve written will not be unbiased. There will range from blind devotion, “…this is soooo good! I wonder who will play your hero on the movie?” through jealousy, “…why don’t you have a real job? Anybody can write a book. I’ll prove it. I’ll take two weeks off next month and crank out a best-seller!”
If you buy into the reactions and comments on either end of the spectrum, you run the great risk of believing your own press, and paying the price in under- or over confidence.
So, what is this post about?
Yeah. You guessed it. Critique groups. You need the honest support of fellow writers. Your work needs to be read, reviewed and critiqued by people who are up to the same things you are. Does this mean you’ll never encounter petty jealousies or faint praise? No, but the chances are by far better that the responses you do get will be more professional, and certainly more helpful than “I Liked It!”, or “You suck!”
Find a critique group close to you, or make one yourself that meets on SKYPE. You might even try an on-line method I call “The Crucible”, or the “One-on-one method“.
However you do it, do not—and I apologize in advance to anyone who is offended by this—trust your close friends and relatives to tell you the truth about your work. Many of them will mean well, and will say what they think you want or need to hear, but as you grow in your craft you must come to understand that not only is writing lonely, it also requires discipline and truth.