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.