Friday, January 23, 2009

Starting a writers' group

I am in the process of beginning a writers' "support" group--I don't like to use the word 'support', because it sounds like psychological counseling, but in fact, writers do need support, since it's so damned hard to do this on your own. That's one of the reasons I consider writing to be a collaborative art, because no one ever writes completely alone, isolated from outside resources. But too often, we write without other people taking an active role in our writing, as though that were the way it was supposed to be, but if you've read my earlier posts, you know I don't believe that's true or necessary. 

Now, every time I've been a member of a writer's group, my experience has been that the process compels one to keep writing, if only because the people who show up each week bring their own stuff and you end up feeling a sense of responsibility to make sure you have something for them to look at. Also, there's just the motivation. It's so much easier to keep going if you've got others who give a damn that you're making progress.

Critiquing is a fine art, however. It's a minefield to navigate, because these are strangers, and you don't want to say the wrong thing. It's also not necessary to critique like some kind of literary critic, which would be insulting and pedantic. The goal of critiquing, it seems to me, ought to be to provide honest (and/but) constructive ideas to help the writing along, not to slash anyone to pieces. I've seen both approaches, and these critiques that destroy the writer's confidence are just silly. There's no need for that. Writing is hard enough; you need support, not detractors. 

I've got two people signed up so far; let's see if we get any more. This should be interesting. It looks like we'll meet at Elliot Bay Book Company, probably on weekends. Writers' groups can be very helpful to keep one motivated, so I hope this works out.

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