About that writer’s group

My latest experiment in writing was to join a writer’s group. At this point, I consider it a mistake, or maybe the better way to say it is “it just wasn’t for me”. 

It was a small group, just two other people, who’ve been meeting for a year, working on each other’s writing, polishing up their words and enjoying it, it seemed to me. They told me right off that they are tough and they were not kidding. The first sample I gave them came back so full of red marks, I could barely read my words.

Let me tell you about me: I was a kid who loved school, loved writing essays, never minded writing that 10-page report. I loved it. At college, I received one B in my major (communications, journalism), the rest were As. I’m not used to seeing my writing riddled with edit marks.

I won awards for my writing while in college and as a professional newspaper reporter. I was told over and over that I could write.

So, based on that flimsy evidence, I figured I could write. I’ve sold a couple short stories, and I’ve published two on Amazon. I’ve had good reviews. Still, I’m thinking I can write, you know? I had a few rejection letters, but none said, “you can’t write”.

Then I went to writer’s group and found out I don’t write very well after all. I mean, I write OKAY but not well. I tell a good story, but my writing ain’t too swell. My characters are good, but I just need to work on my writing. The other writers were looking forward to reading the rest of the story, but I really needed to fix a lot of things.

The first night I took it pretty well. Even in the car on the way home, I thought, “wow, I am really learning a lot.” And then the second week, my REVISED copy got the same red ink treatment.

I’m not a quitter; I’m really not. But I had to quit the writing group. I’m not built to take a weekly beat-down. I’ve been criticized as being too sensitive and you know what? I am sensitive. I don’t just sit down and peck a bunch of keys and consider it good writing. I work on my stories. They’re read and re-read. An experienced author had even edited the particular story I shared with the writing group.

So I was frustrated that I missed all these “mistakes” in my story and I was frustrated that the editor missed them, and I was just plain fed up with writing and editing and to hell with it.

I’m still beating myself up a bit over quitting the group, but it’s just not helping me. In fact, I found myself doubting every word I wrote and rethinking some things I’ve written that I’ve sold. I’ll never get anywhere with that amount of self-doubt hanging over me. So I have to shake it off and go back to thinking “I can write”.  If I can’t believe in myself, I can’t write.

I’d love to hear from other authors about their experiences with writing groups. I know they work great for some folks. Please share your experiences here.

 

I’ll think about it

I don’t know what went wrong. Maybe I was too needy, maybe I just missed that day in learning to be a person class? Who cares? The problem is that I’m an overthinker. I think twice, I think again, I muddle it over, I brood, I fret, I stew, I look at it from a different angle, then all the other angles and then I make up some angles. The glass is half-full, half-empty, empty with lots of sludge in the bottom that I ain’t drinking, no way! 

Buying our house was an exercise in overthinking brought to a whole new level and, not to brag, but I think I might have mentally broken my therapist, my realtor and several close friends. We had a house, but I hated the house. It was upside down, no, not sitting on the peak of the roof, silly, the mortgage was upside down which meant we had to sell it for a tad more than it was worth. HA! Well, we hated the place, it was hard for us to imagine that happening. After killing ourselves emotionally over that issue, we decided to buy this house — my dream house, by the way. Long story short, last night, seven months after moving in, I asked my husband, in all seriousness, “Are you sure we should have bought this house?” There was a brief struggle where I pried his hands from around my neck, then some talk of a divorce, but ultimately he  reassured me that we made the right choice. And he fell back to sleep since it was 3 a.m. and he had been sleeping. 

I did the same thing about starting writing and still do it now that I am officially a writer. I read a lot of books about how-to-write, which by the way, is the greatest gig in the world. Stephen King’s On Writing is considered a great example of a how to write book. You know what you could ALSO do? Read his books. Because they are how he learned to write. He wrote those books. Anyway, I love to read how-to-write books and so I did. And I still didn’t write. When I felt like writing, I read one of those books. And if I got REALLY revved up about writing, I took a writing seminar/course/conference. I took notes, I listened to how other people learned to write and I heard all about people who wrote for 25 years before selling one stinking word. I would go home definitely un-revved up and rethink the whole writing idea. Maybe I couldn’t do it after all. No matter that I wasn’t working on it, didn’t have my ass in the seat in front of the computer, putting down words. No, I was thinking it over. And over. Because I did not want to fail. 

I have failed many times. I’m kind of tired of thinking about how many times I fail, but, yeah, I have that overthinking problem. So I was afraid of failing. I still am. I send out a story to an anthology, I wish I could take it back and fix it. If they accept it, I wonder if maybe it’s not such a great anthology if they accepted something I wrote. Sigh. You would think all this thinking would make me stupid and yes, it has, at times. I’ve not submitted to anthos, out of fear. I’ve erased entire stories because I think they’re not  good enough.

Ultimately, I do take a wild leap of faith and send out my stories, or publish them on Amazon myself. That’s the right thing to do. The over-thinking is not good. I see people do it all the time, reading a lot of how-to-write books, talking about writing, talking to writers, but not writing. Or not sending their little babies out into the world for others to read and enjoy. Life’s short and there are too many other things vying for our attention. Writers have to just make the move and send that sucker out there. And forget about it until you hear from the editor. Then you are allowed to think about it again. Now, go write and stop thinking so much, already.