Writing Group Woes

I’ll be heading back next week. Wedding festivities have been fun and spoiled me for all things food and alcohol related – I just need to stay hydrated and stick to veggies for a while and I’ll be ok.

Coming back means a return to routine. Before I left for home, we got the last of the interior work done on the house, which means I won’t be a prisoner to the contractors’ schedules. I can come and go as I please. Bike rides to coffee shops and the library are in my immediate future. Bliss!

I’ll also be returning to my writing groups, or should I say group… My Monday night group that’s centered around prompts is still going strong. The critique-focused group, however, has kinda imploded.

First indication that something wasn’t right: one member stopped coming without a word. Secondly, the founder left town to address some personal issues (outlook not so good for her return). Then, when I and the two remaining members were going to meet and figure out how to carry on and recruit new members, we had to cancel last minute because one member was ramping up for her first year as a teacher. We’re tentatively scheduled to meet next week after almost two months of down time, and I’m not sure what will happen.

I realize writing isn’t easy. I realize that groups, while encouraging, can also stress people out and place pressure on them to produce work on a regular basis, which can be frustrating when inspiration strikes irregularly. And don’t even get me started on the critique aspect. There are always those who take take take and never offer reciprocal feedback. Always with a well-meaning excuse, mind you.

I also wonder if my standards for myself are unforgiving for others to meet. After all, I’m not working right now and don’t have to worry about the stress of a 9 to 5 (or longer) job and then writing on top of that. Nor do I have children, who are another time suck. No, it’s just me, my writing, and my understanding husband who knows I’m not happy only keeping house. Therefore I have the time to read and review every submission from the group. But I do wonder why some of the members joined up if they couldn’t commit fully…

People have talked before about the difficulties of finding good critique partners, and I think I’m dealing with these growing pains right now. Sharing your writing is important and necessary. See The Importance of a Critique Group from All Kinds of Writing if you need convincing. But some criticism is better than others — A breadth of critique from TalkToYoUniverse provides a nice description of the different types of readers and how you should interpret their criticisms.

What I liked about our critique group was the wide variety of styles and genres the members brought to the table. This range of perspectives was wonderful as I’m still bouncing around a bit in terms of which writing styles I’m focused on. In other words, which ones I’m better at. So if I do meet up with the remaining members, and we do decide to keep going and recruit more folks, we will want to preserve that variety. Searching for a Critique Group provides a nice checklist of questions we’ll aslo need to keep in mind as we try to grow our group.

If we can’t get dedicated people, I’ll have to explore other ways to find like-minded writers – probably have to break down and join the RWA. I’ve been hesitant to do this, which is something I’ll have to talk about in another post.

Anyone else going through this right now? What strategies have you used?
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3 thoughts on “Writing Group Woes

  1. That's too bad! I'm not part of a critique group so I'm not sure how I'd handle this. I wish I could help you! I'm tweeting this post, so hopefully someone will have useful advice for you. Good luck!

  2. I haven't had quite your problem, but I have been feeling some writing group growing pains myself. I'm part of a very small writing group (three women including myself) where we write all write in different genera and for different age groups. We've been trying to expand our group, but it hasn't been going very well.

    Though I really like my group, it hasn't been able to support my story development (which I need more help with) as much as my writing development. So I've been conflicted for a while about what to do: I really like this group, but should I stick with it if I'm not getting what I need out of it?

    For the moment I have decided to stay in my group but find myself a writing buddy who reads and writes in my genera for story support. I joined the Absolute Write boards and have now started working with another writer. It's only been a week or two, so we'll see how it works out.

    Thanks for letting me share that! It's been something I've been thinking about for awhile and am still working through. Good luck to anyone else navigating through writing group issues!

  3. Laura, thanks for tweeting the link!

    Lena, good to hear from you! Glad to know you've found a group you are working with. I too am thinking I need to find someone who writes in my genres. You'll have to let me know how it goes for you!

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