How many of the writers out there have tried participating in a critique group, but have found that it wasn't for them. You didn't feel comfortable so you decided not to go back. Well, finding the right critique group is a lot like finding a great pair of shoes. You know you have found the right pair when you slip your feet in them and they feel great. If you have to shoehorn your foot in and you start thinking, hopefully they will stretch, then it is probably time to try on another pair.
I have had the privilege in participating in many critique groups over the past eight or so years. I belonged to one that I loved a couple of years ago, but my schedule changed and I wasn't able to continue to go. In the past year or two, I have 'tried on' many others, but I always felt as if I was shoehorning my way in. Don't get me wrong, the writers in these groups were excellent, but the fit just wasn't right.
Last night my schedule was such that I had the opportunity to go to the group that I had once been a part of. As I was gathering my materials to go, apprehension started to grow. What if the group had changed? What if it was not as I remembered? I had to shake off a lot of nerves in order to put myself in the car and drive to the meeting. When I walked into the Wellington Writers Critique Group I was happy to see familiar faces as well as many new ones. The group has flourished under Caryn's leadership.
I sat and listened to a variety of writers. I was surrounded by humorists, memoirists, novelists, and poets. I had the privilege to hear the work of two young writers, between the ages of thirteen and fifteen, who left me slack jawed and amazed. These young ladies have a huge future ahead of them. I will find out their names and post them next week. They were that good.
What I loved about the group was their honesty and humility as well as their purpose. They are writers helping writers. I learned more about my writing in those two hours than I had in the past year. The honest and constructive critiques were eye opening.
If you have never read your writing out loud to a group . . . do it! You will pick up mistakes as you read and the unbiased ear of those around you will pick up even more.
So, what is the moral of this little story? There are a couple. One: all writers regardless of skill or success can benefit from joining a critique group, and two: if the group doesn't fit, if you feel as if you are shoehorning yourself in, try on another and another until you find the perfect fit. You will be happy you didn't give up and your writing will improve dramatically.
Until next week, go try on some shoes.