Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. I know it's Christmas and most folks won't be checking blogger but I do want to get this series finished before New Years so here's installment 5. I'll leave it up a couple of days. Only one more installment to go.
Part 5: Bumps in the Road.
If you join or form a group that lasts more than six months, you’ll definitely have to deal with losses and gains in members. For many reasons, people’s needs change. Their focus and interests alter. Life gets in the way with marriages, sicknesses, or job changes. Our group stresses that it’s OK for a member to leave with no grudges held. I’m still good friends with many ex-members. We also stress that it’s OK for a member to join or start a secondary group with a different focus than ours. The goal is to help people become better writers.
Our group started as an “open” group at the library, meaning anyone who wanted could join. As we started getting ourselves organized we transitioned to a “closed” group, which means you have to be invited to join. We only accept a new member when an old one leaves, and we’re careful about it. We ask potential new members to sit quietly through two of our meetings to see what we do and find out if it is for them. Then we actually vote on admitting the member. We’ve never had a vote be less than unanimous.
No Human Endeavor is Free of Conflict. The worst conflicts in writing groups are all about hurt feelings. I left my first group because one woman constantly made snide comments about SF/Fantasy/Horror. She called it “Comic booky.” I felt disrespected, and it didn’t seem she was trying to help me but was trying to tear me down, perhaps to make herself feel better.
Sometimes the disrespect you seem to be getting from other members is genuine. Sometimes the member is really feeling sorry for themselves. Sometimes the reviewer means well but comes off too harsh in tone. People have different critique styles.
When a personal conflict occurs, you have three choices:
a. Confront it. Start out with a one to one talk, then bring it up as group issue if that fails.
b. Leave. If it becomes too personal, you may have to. Start another group.
c. Learn from it. Hurt feelings are inevitable, but legitimate & honest criticism is how we grow. People say, “develop a thick skin!” What does that mean? It means to take criticism in a professional manner without getting defensive or erupting with anger. Don’t ignore criticisms that upset you. Learn what you can from each criticism. Remember that you own your work. Don’t just change it in an effort to be accepted. And for goodness sake, resist the urge to write for the group.
Reviewers need to remember some things too, though: Words have power. Criticisms need to be directed to the material, not the writer. You’re not there to make yourself feel better, but to help the writer. Fine writing and terrible writing can occur in any genre. Newer writers generally need a lighter hand than experienced writers.