This week in my chapter updates from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott I have decided to discuss my personal experience on the two topics of Writing Groups and Someone to Read Your Drafts. For me, these are two crucial elements for a writer. Here is a look at some of my experience in these two areas:
One of the first ways that I made my writing public was through a writing contest. I did not win that contest, but it was through that endeavor that I learned to accept criticism. My story wasn’t returned with gold stars from the judges. It hurt at first because I was sure that my story was the best. A week after the contest I ended my membership with the writing group that put on the contest and went back into writing seclusion. I liked my bubble because I liked my own work. The only problem–I’m a terrible editor of my own work.
Fast forward a couple of years and I’ve come along way in receiving negative comments. I’ve written a book, many short stories, articles, and have a wealth of ideas. I’ve conducted research, read several books, and feel like I’ve blossomed in my writing. I’ve had the opportunity to receive feedback on my writing in several different ways which has strengthened my writing all the more.
I rejoined the writing group that had hurt my feelings. This time I was determined to use the negative comments to make me stronger. Immediately I was welcomed back. The feedback I received from some pieces I submitted were both constructive and positive. I was able to see things I still needed to focus on, but this time around it didn’t hurt my feelings. I’m stronger now and I know that every negative comment makes me that much stronger as a writer.
I’m currently enrolled in another contest through the same writing group. My story is in workshopping phase right now which means I’m getting several comments and suggestions a day from others in the group. The comments range from
“Very engaging story with real as life POV and characters. I enjoy a story that makes me see and feel without much work and this was a good one.”
“You have a powerful story on your hands here, well done! I was immediately drawn in and enjoyed the fast pace.”
“The style you’ve chosen tends to be heavy on the telling, which for the most part works, but in the first line I think you could create an image for us, to increase reader engagement.”
A year or two ago I would have totally been crushed by the third comment. I would have wallowed in self-pity thinking that my aspirations as a writer were finished. But today I see this comment as a fellow writer’s advice to strengthen my own writing. I’m not hurt. I’m empowered.
There’s something about joining a writing group that really does help us grow. We develop thick skin and are constantly educated in writing from others who are walking that path alongside us. The final draft for my essay is due this week and I will excitedly share it with you once it is finished.
Someone to Read Your Drafts
Just like it is helpful to find a group of writers in which you all critique in a safe environment it is also helpful to have one or two go-to readers to provide quick, and constructive feedback.
For me, my person is my sister.
Morgan is an English major wrapping up her undergraduate. She has already fixed her eyes on grad school and is intending to go on to further study English with the aspiration of becoming a college professor. When she was in high school I used to edit all of her papers. She would send them to me and I would put on my teacher hat and fix, edit, and suggest.
The tables have turned now. Instead of the being the respectable editor of our relationship she has become that editor for me. As someone who spends 75% of her time in English classes, working in the writing center at her school, or reading, Morgan has become my expert eye. I send her pieces that I plan to submit. She looks over it and we discuss it together.
In a couple of hours we are meeting for coffee at one of our favorite work spots and working on writing and editing together. These are days I really enjoy. We sip on coffee, talk about family drama, and do some writing. With coffee, gossip, and writing what could be better, right?
As a writer it is crucial to have a person or two like Morgan. Someone to read your work and respond honestly will help you to grow and communicate much more effectively. I’m pretty happy about having my person.
The Ameri Brit Mom