A couple of years ago I came to the realization that I would need to a writer's group if I wanted to grow and improve as a writer. I wasn't ready at the time. But I'm glad I began to think about it back then. I needed time to digest the idea and come to terms with it.
Sharing my work with strangers and giving them permission to tell me all the things they didn't like about it was far from my idea of a night of fun. I imagined it would be about as pleasant as the five minutes I spend with a phlebotomist digging around to find my ever-elusive veins. The only thing that would make me more uncomfortable than having my work critiqued is critiquing someone else's work.
Our writing is so personal - an extension of ourselves. Someone telling you they don't like your character or that your plot feels contrived can hurt as much as being told your newborn looks like a small alien. Even if it's true. No thank you, I thought. I am far more comfortable in the role of cheerleader. Still, I knew it was something I needed to do. I resolved to eventually join a writer's group - even if I had to start my own.
During those years I worked to improve my writing. I studied the craft. I took classes. Most importantly, I learned the importance of constructive criticism and how to accept it graciously. I also had the privilege of interviewing some wonderful authors for All Things Girl - including New York Times bestselling author, Joshilyn Jackson. During the interview Jackson credited her participation in a critique group with moving her writing career forward. It was a story I'd heard repeatedly from published authors.
I was reminded of my promise to myself to join a writer's group. So I did. I was fortunate to discover a wonderful writer's group in my local area on Meetup.com. The group organizer is thorough, proactive, and conscientious. The members take their critiquing seriously. They offer insightful observations and constructive comments that consistently make each member's work better. Best of all the group is always positive.
Joining the group - despite my initial reservations - turned out to be one of the best things I could ever have done for my writing. I currently participate in a virtual critique group - a subgroup of the main group. I feel extremely lucky to be part of this group of talented writers who give generously of their time and energy.
I had to step outside out of my comfort zone to join a writer's group, but I'm so glad I did. My writing is better for it. Telling my fellow writers what I really think about their work isn't as hard as I thought. My only goal is to encourage their brilliance while helping them to improve their craft. What could be more simple?