Today I’m hymning the praises of writers groups; that is, groups of writers who have a common interest in becoming better writers. I’ve participated in four (no, wait a moment, five) groups of writers now, in addition to a writers retreat under the auspices of the Arvon Foundation, at Lumb Bank, Ted Hughes’ home.
The writers retreat was a salutary introduction to helpful critique, as two successful novelists worked their way through a scene in my emerging novel and helped to show me how to write fiction that compelled the reader forward. Following their recommendation, and taking on the advice of a friend who was already enjoying a local writers group, I joined Claire Lynn’s weekly in-person sessions (Northumbria Writers, affiliated with the National Association of Writers and Groups) in Hexham, our closest market town. I didn’t have a clue what I was in for, but the shared creative experience was, and continues to be, most stimulating.
Fellow writers look at other writers’ writing and really, it’s amazing the insights that can be shared, in a most empathetic manner. I’ve been humbled by how kind colleagues have been, and chagrinned at some of my awkward, infelicitous comments. But we live and learn together.
It’s hard, of course, to receive feedback about this or that effort that just doesn’t pass muster. I feel grumpy for days after a less than effusive reception! But more often than not I go back, revise and re-configure, and emerge with a better piece for the exercise. I’m convinced that as much of a slow learner as I am, I am still learning.
And so the joy I’m feeling this morning comes because of two different kinds of interactions within two different writers groups, both unexpected and both intriguing and very helpful. Now if only I can get some positive feedback from a short story competition I felt compelled to enter, in the popular GlobeSoup.net community! I’ll have to wait for the reveal later this month.
Fortunately, as is good writing practice, I’ve got several irons in the fire so that as one hope is dashed, another arises. In the science fiction writing group, a good admonition is to keep writing, no matter how disappointing any individual reception might have been.
And after all, writing per se is a reasonable joy, in and of itself.