Thursday, December 11, 2008

Slightly Less Random Stuff About Writing This Time

Between getting over a horrible cold and finishing up finals at the college, I have been away from the computer for a few days. When I sat down to open my email, I found six messages about an article I wrote that just came out in the January Writer magazine.

The jist of the article is that I don't or wouldn't function well with a writers' group. For me, writing is an act best done alone, and in silence -- two conditions that are pretty rare in my day-to-day life. Still, I obviously find time to write since I publish on a regular basis. But I hardly ever watch tv, and I don't go out.
Seriously. I'm not sure how people who work, even part time, and have kids and write go out to parties or have other couples over for dinner. When someone says they are "dropping by" fear strikes my heart because I have to get the laundry baskets off the couch, put the baby gate up for the dog, find a spot to hide the vacuum, and try to act as if we don't live like gypsies with pillows on the floor and books all over the place. I just shut the boys' bedroom door because in there, it's just hopeless. And a little scary.

Anyway, that tangent is done. The point is this: I'm allowed to say that I don't like writers' groups, or critique groups, and that I don't think editors are always right. I guess that's arrogant. At least according to the email I received (so far 4 "against" the ideas expressed in the article; 2 stating they feel exactly as I do about writers' groups). The arrogance is because I don't take criticism of my work to heart. I stuff it away in the desk for a few days, or weeks, then look at it later and decide if the editor was right or not. After all, it is MY writing, and I may have a different vision of it than that editor does. And that probably explains why there are so many editors in the world. It's a little like dating...

I probably should have stopped writing there, but I went on to say how writers' groups are something I just can't stand. "I wouldn't be able to go on without my writers group," one email said. That's good. I wouldn't be able to go on without a fairly steady supply of chocolate, but who cares? Really. I can't imagine showing people my work when it's in the drafting stages because it seems too much like revealing myself too early in the game, or letting people "drop by" before you fix the place up a little.

My reluctance about writing groups can be explained simply. Writing is the only thing I do alone these days. It's the only physical and psychic "space" I have - and I find other people's comments on my writing, before it's in the final stages, to be distracting and, in my crabbier moments, kind of a nuisance. Comments on early writing is like an intrusion into a dream - and I mean the shrill alarm clock kind, not the someone-has-brought-you-coffee-and-bagels-in-bed kind.

But apparently, I am in the minority. Right now, my dog is the only one who is around when I am working (the cats hunker down for naps when the kids aren't home and the house is quiet). I think the only real arrogance here is thinking there is one way to write, and it's yours.


TerriRainer said...

I admire that opinion. I was in a writer's group that turned into social/drinking time, which was a waste of my time, so I quit.

I have since found a group of writers on-line that I LOVE. But that's just me.

I think everybody has to do what works for them.

:) Terri

Mary Witzl said...

I certainly agree that there is more than one way to write, and that not everyone is made for a writers' group.

For three years, I had no writers' group. I tried going to one, but for many reasons, I could never bring myself to show more than one person my work, and I never really felt comfortable. Oddly enough, I found a good group through my blog, and up until we moved, I was able to meet them on-line every week. I don't always agree with everything they come up with -- and sometimes I disagree entirely -- but their ideas help me to see what I believe in and what I don't, in my work.

I've got a full-time job and teenagers and I'll admit it: we have virtually no social life! Parties? What are they?

Bryan B. said...

So, I just read your article in the Writer.

It made me laugh. And I don't know if I was supposed to laugh or not, but having encountered people just like that, well - I laughed regardless of intent.

That said, I think people who go all knee-jerk on you are probably the ones who suffer most from what you wrote about...

Anyway, I enjoyed it.

Marcia said...

Anne, that photo made me howl! Congrats on the article in the Writer! I'm going to look it up. I belong to a crit group and have for about 12 years, but I don't disagree with you, not by a long shot. A huge disadvantage is that your work gets critiqued too early in the process, and I in fact did sell 5 or 6 books before the group ever formed that had never been critiqued by anyone. I don't want to leave the group (most of us are "founding members," so we have a lot of history), they're good writing buddies in general, I tend to be too isolated anyway, etc. But I'm not bringing my WIP for crit anymore, so I'm not sure how I'll handle this. Like you -- no TV and virtually no social life except with our kids.

Anne Spollen said...

Right, Terri -I wouldn't mind socializing with other writers, in fact, I would like that, but I would have to call it that and not a writers' group.

On line might be a good way to go if you trust the people's opinions.And on line writers can never ask you to bake anything to bring...

I only work part time, Mary, but my daughter recently turned ten, and she still wants me to play with her, make cookies with her, all that fun stuff. (The teens are more like doing surveillance - where are they going? what are they doing? at this point) I can't imagine how people with kids socialize and keep their kids happy and their writing interesting. I run out of time every single day.

Hi, Bryan B - thanks for stopping by. It wasn't a serious article, and I thought the people at that writing group were just silly, so yeah, you can laugh. There's this idea out there that if you work hard, you deserve publication and I find that ludicrous. I could work really hard on an oil painting, but it would still be junk. I think writing groups encourage those kinds of bizarre

I love that picture, too, Marcia. Dogs are so cool - I can't imagine getting a cat to do that - EVER. And I didn't know you had so many books out there -- I only knew about the Anne Bradstreet book. You don't "advertise" too much on your blog!

I guess all I'm saying, and there are still emails coming in about how wrong I am, is that the writing is yours and you shouldn't just blindly follow an editor's advice unless it makes sense to you. And most writing groups people have told me about (I've only been to one) are more social activities than real workshops that shape writing. I think I touched a nerve because so many people are responding to this article - only as time goes on, more folks are agreeing with me.

Kim Eisler, MG and YA Writer said...

My writing group is my lifeline. You should definately try another writing group because you will find they are the best thing that ever happened to your writing.