The writing day carries me home. I walk fast, buoyed and excited by story and progress. I hope to reach home and share it with my wife.
But she has no interest in my writing progress or my writing process. Once she would have hidden her impatient disinterest. Now, though, her eyes are glazing over as soon as I begin speaking. She's off, back to what she's doing.
Not her fault. Writing is personal. I've finished editing chapters 17 and 19, which focused on one of the main characters' POV in telling the tale. After finishing those, though, I end up playing hopscotch between chapter 8, where he - I - begin relating his piece, and 17 and 19, synchronizing mood, thoughts and activities. Then I continue on through polishing 20, 21, 22, 23. Ahead is chapter 24 or 25, which relates to chapter 8/17/19 and combines elements from all the other stories, revealing even as they cast confusion - because I love the unreliable narrator, the one who insists this is what happened, which is at a sharp angle to what others insist happen.
Fortunately I was able to share with another writer, Becky. I ran into her at the coffee shop. She completely understood what I related.
Beckyt joined a critique group to jumpstart her fiction writing. Regret and second thoughts are tarnishing her experience. Relating her insights with delightfully dry humor, she tells how this is the most depressed, worn down and weary group of writers she's ever seen. They emit no joy or enthusiasm for writing, reading or fiction.
Part of it, in Becky's opinion, is the hugely regimented structure. Everyone is sent everyone's manuscript to be critqued. When the group comes together, each person is given two minutes to relate their insights. The two minutes end with a buzzer. Then the author of the critiqued piece has two minutes to respond to the input. "It's like that damn buzzer is going off every two minutes," Becky groused, cracking me up.
There is no joking, no esprit de words or triumph. They are there to critique. Fun, passion and humor will not stand in their way.
It's one of my several complaints about writing groups. I believe writing groups can work but it takes work and luck to find the right one, one that suits your progress and needs. As a writer in the past, I wanted reassured that I had some clue about what I was doing. Critique groups were more about what worked for other writers reading your work.
That's as personal as the expectations any reader takes to a book. Beyond the sense of weariness so many aspiring fiction writers frequently convey, there's also contrast and disagreement about what works and doesn't work. I've been in writing conference critique groups where one third said, "Don't change anything," one third said, "Change this, this and this," and one third said, "I didn't understand what was going on." That's why I hold onto "Write what you know you want to read." I let my inner reader be my critic.
Becky and I spoke for twenty minutes. She ended by saying, "I took away more from our conversation today than any of the sessions with my group."
I took a lot away, as well. Really I just wanted another writer to talk about, someone who understands what it means to write and find satisfaction in what you've written.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com