Saturday, May 27, 2017

I Quit My Critique Group

Last night. Though I've been thinking about it for weeks.

Going in, I cherished the idea that in a local group relationships would be formed and ideas exchanged warmly and freely. I thought we would go deeper than we can in the online workshops and I could get an immediate response to my questions about my work. But that's not how it was, and perhaps could never be.

I quit, and it wasn't just the time commitment factor (which is all I mentioned in my email to the group), though that was big.

Or that I never really fit in socially with the others in the group, or that the others all write YA and I don't.

It wasn't just my discomfort with how the moderator was running the sessions, or the fact that she and I were on different wavelengths as to how she was structuring them--- were we all taking turns or was it a free discussion? (That got awkward, the last meeting I went to.)

It wasn't even my frustration at having the others try to remold my storyline and my characters to fit what they thought they should be. Though that weighed in heavily, too.

It was mostly that I was turning into That Writer, and I didn't like myself. You know, the author whose lizard brain goes wild when her writing is attacked and who finds it impossible to say "thank you" for critique that seems to have no relation to what she's trying to get down on paper. I like to think I held back from actually defending my work, that all I ever said in response was to explain what I was going for in the story and ask them to help me apply their comments to that. But even that I could never do gracefully or well. My mind would go blank, the adrenaline would surge, and while I might manage a terse "I see," what I was seeing was anybody's guess.

So I removed myself. Maybe someday, when I'm getting more than two hours of sleep a night . . . but for now, online groups and remote beta readers may be the best ways for me to get feedback for my writing. Dealing with criticism on paper or on a computer screen keeps me objective. Not so much, face to face.

If you've ever left a writers' group, how did you know it was time to bail?

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