Monday, December 3, 2012

Hanging Out in Thunderstorms

Writing, he observed unoriginally, is a damned lonely business. But there are ways of compensating.

A friend of mine once said, "If your ambition is to be struck by lightning, hang out in thunderstorms. If you want to write, hang out with writers." The trick is to find ways of doing that.

One of the best is to join a writers' group - IF.

  • If you can find a reasonable number of reasonable, like-minded people. It takes exactly one jerk to ruin a critique/comment group for everyone. RULE 1: We're all in the same boat, so let's row in the same direction.
  • If all of you can both give and take criticism. Criticism is not acid; it hath not the power to etch your soul. Realize when you are giving it that your goal is to be constructive, to help someone else write the best work possible. Realize when you are receiving it that even the best criticism is only a suggestion. You don't have to take it if you don't want to.
  • If you really want to improve your writing rather than just hear fawning praise. You want to be as critical of your own work as you are of others'. I doubt if there is one piece of writing, including holy writ, that could not be tweaked and improved in at least small ways. When people have difficulty with something you've written, be willing and ready to tear it down and build again.
  • If it's not all work and no play. Socialize with the others. Learn what there is to know about markets and publishing. Celebrate others' accomplishments; commiserate on others' near-misses. Laugh with them. Be friends with them. They're writers like you. They understand you.
How to find writers in your area? They're thick on the ground. Ask around. Establish a special email account for contact. Post a note in the local library. When you find one, that one will know another and that one will know another.

But once you've got a core going, audition new members. Make sure they know Rule 1. Make sure they're congenial. Then meet regularly - every week, every two weeks, every month, whatever.

You know what? I'd bet that eventually you begin to look forward to those meetings. They make the lonely job of writing a little less so.

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