It’s August already? This summer’s going by so fast. ☀️
Woot! After years of searching I’ve found a writers group that feels like a great fit. They tore my chapters to smithereens and left me feeling inspired and better prepared to improve my writing. I’m so glad to have found them.
I’m fact, now that I’ve found a group I like, it’s easier to see what qualities I should have been looking for in writing group members all along. That’s what today’s post is about.
Some things to look for in your next writers group:
They take their work seriously. Everyone present is actively working on a writing project they care about.
Critiques are more honest than “nice.” “You’ve got too much exposition here.” “I don’t like this character.” “I felt confused during this part…” Everyone’s respectful, but it’s understood that the goal is improvement, not ego strokes.
They arrive prepared and on time. People arrive having read the week’s submissions with their comments ready to go. The group “gets down to business” promptly and keeps an eye on the clock.
No Explaining or Defending. The person being critiqued listens actively, and is allowed to ask a clarifying question or two at the end. That’s it. This cuts down on the defensive monologues that can make meetings drag on.
High Expectations = Fewer Energy Vampires. You’ve probably met an energy vampire if you’ve ever attended a public meeting. They’re the ones who bring either drama or distraction, making the experience less pleasant for everybody. In writing groups, energy vampires exhibit some of the following behaviors:
- Using the meeting to try to sell you something.
- Making sexual advances.
- Telling you what to write.
- Asking for feedback, but then responding badly.
- Talking about themselves instead of their work.
- Being disruptive or ignoring the agenda.
Knock on wood, but I haven’t run into any energy vampires in this new group. I suspect it’s because the meetings come with homework and vampires don’t like homework. They just wanna show up and suck. (Get it? Har har.)
There’s a big difference between writing groups that provide writing time and those that provide writing feedback. When I was a beginner, those “show up and we’ll write together” groups were encouraging, but that’s not what I need these days. Instead, I need people knowledgeable enough to sniff my story and tell me what stinks.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “you get out of this group what you put into it” and that’s true of critique groups. Reading other people’s work, in quantity, is a big investment of time and energy. But because everyone puts in the work, there’s lots of quality feedback to go around.
If you’re building a writing career, you might benefit from peers with similar ambitions. Look for people who care as much and work as hard as you, regardless of what they’re writing. Genre compatibility is nice, but not that important.
My advice for intermediate writers: Search for critique groups specifically, and pick one with a structured agenda and a history of regular meetings. Favor groups where the writing happens outside the meeting. And if at all possible, choose a group that meets in person. I know it’s difficult to find a good fit, but keep at it till you do, ’cause it’s worth it.
Good luck! And keep on writing!
My 11 minute rental cost me $3.75, which is about what I’d pay for a long bus ride or a light rail trip down to SeaTac airport. Biking was about 15 minutes faster than walking home, but biking cost me $3.75 more than walking. Also, because the bike had a battery pack, I probably burned fewer calories than I would have on foot.
Multiplying it out, a commuter using rideshare bikes for “last mile” commuting to and from work could easily spend $150 per month just to avoid a short walk at the end of their bus or train ride home. Seems pricey to me.
I think I’ll save my $3.75 splurges for espresso and keep on walking. 🚶♀️
You’ve probably seen one of those popular articles about the most common regrets of dying people. These types of articles tend to reinforce cliched truisms. No one wishes they’d worked more on their deathbed, one maxim goes. He who does with the most toys still dies, says another.
But here’s what I’m wondering: Why is “the way we feel upon our deathbed” considered the most relevant measurement of a life? Those final days or hours are a mere blip on our timeline, and an infinitesimal percentage of our life experience. It just doesn’t seem rational to care that deeply about one specific moment, as it’s no more important than any other.
If I have a deathbed, and enough time to contemplate anything on my way out, first I’d want to tell my loved ones how happy they’ve made me. And then I’d partake of the fun experiences only available to the nearly dead. I could make ghostly howls under the sheets to freak out visiting children. Or I could steal a cop car and drive around town making citizens arrests. With access to an Uber and Amazon Prime, I could dress myself in fetish wear and lay down to die in the living room of my least favorite politician, surrounded by tidy piles of cocaine. (I assume that by the year of my death Prime will deliver literally anything) My last phone call could be to a NYTimes tip line. Bring a photographer, I’ll shout through an Amazon Basics brand voice synthesizer. You’re gonna wanna see this!
Obviously I’m joking! 😏 But I’m fairly certain I won’t be wasting my final days with regrets. If dying me were to bemoan the choices 20 year old me made, I can only imagine 20 year old me flipping myself off through the space-time continuum, asking what gives me the right. Young me made her choices willingly and freely. Ditto for current me. And the same goes for whatever me will be laying in bed at the end (and may it be many decades from now).
Regrets, should we have them, are better addressed in the moment I think. We can apologize for our mistakes. We can make amends when we’ve hurt people. Most importantly, we can resolve to be better now instead of assuming things will work themselves out someday. We all know, at least at some level, that someday may never arrive.
If I could choose how I’ll exit this world, I’d prefer to either die painlessly in my sleep or be eaten by a rampaging T-Rex while a horrified crowd screams all around me. Make it quick or make it interesting.
Either way, no regrets.