I’ve been wracking my brain the last few days trying to think of what could be considered sound advice, one writer to another.
As mentioned in a couple of our previous blog posts, Afton and I started taking writing more seriously when we took a creative writing class at a community college several years ago. I greatly enjoyed listening to other writers, both the new and the self-proclaimed experts. There was always something to learn from them, whether that meant following their writing advice or steering far clear of it.
Coming out the other side of that class taught me one great thing when it comes to writing: don’t go it alone. What I mean by that is that you should always feel comfortable in turning to others when it comes to your writing. I have personally felt isolated in my endeavors as a writer and can attest to the fact that sharing your writing will always be better than hiding it under piles of books on your desk.
Now, sharing your writing may seem daunting at first, but there’s more than one way to go about it. Octavia Estelle Butler, an American science-fiction writer once said, “A workshop is a way of renting an audience, and making sure you're communicating what you think you're communicating. It's so easy as a young writer to think you're been very clear when in fact you haven't.”
I will add my voice to hers when I say that a writing group can be priceless when it comes to getting great feedback on your writing. Just as my sister and I learned this in our creative writing course, you can search for local writing groups, whether it be a class at a community college or just a group of writers who are offering what you need.
A writing group can become a refuge of sorts. I went on to take several more creative writing courses after the first and came across a small group of wonderfully competent writers who wished for the same as me; a group in which to open up and share our little writing babies without fear of disgust or reprimand. It may take some time if you wish to find the same, but once you find it, hold on. A group of writers won’t always give you a “I loved it, it’s a masterpiece!” type of feedback. Instead, look for those who will give you constructive criticism, who will tell you where the writing is weak, but also give suggestions on how you can fix it.
In the end, it will always be your choice whether you accept or reject such criticisms, but just as Butler suggests, you may not be as clear in your writing as you may think, and that feedback from others can be vital to your writing. For me, the workshop setting has always given me motivation to continue to write. Not for myself, but for others. If this is something that you wish to pursue, I invite you to look for local writers, or even a group online in which you can share your little writing babies.
Of course, there are those who believe writing groups are useless. Stephen King seems to have had that very thought when asked about writing groups. “And what about those [writers' workshop] critiques, by the way? How valuable are they? Not very, in my experience, sorry. A lot of them are maddeningly vague. I love the feeling of Peter's story, someone may say. It had something... a sense of I don't know... there's a loving kind of you know... I can't exactly describe it....”
So you know what? It may not be the thing for you. I myself don’t agree with King because I think there will always be that little niche waiting out there for you to find. Maybe he gave up before he found his. In his case that didn’t seem to be a problem. My advice? You know yourself better than anyone else, and you know what will be best for you and your writing. Weigh the pros and cons of a writing group and start down that path that will help your writing strengthen and improve, and that will eventually help you achieve your writing goals. Best of luck!