Hellos Hellos Hellos! Big beautiful hellos to all you writers and creative peeps out there living the dream (and if you’re circling around it that counts, too!)
Last week, I wrote about Plato + Steven Pressfield + Dorothea Brande and how you maybe should think about sharing your creative work very carefully before you make like NIKE and just do it.
This week, let’s talk about the different ways writers are connecting out there, how to evaluate a sharing opportunity, and deciding if you need to share your work at this time and in that group.
Here is a breakdown of the major ways writers connect with each other:
- OPEN online groups and Social Media: It’s hot-red awesome sauce that the Internet has made here-to-for unheard of resources available for everyone with access to a computer. Boons aside, the free fall has a dark side. It means that people can more easily deceive others and misrepresent themselves. To be fair, most people are not even aware they are doing this or why. Do I sound like a distrustful curmudgeon here? Well, when it comes to my writing I apologetically am. When it comes to sharing my work I need to feel absolutely comfortable with who my reader is, how they conduct themselves, and if they actually have anything productive to give me. If they don’t meet ALL these criteria, it’s a waste of time. Does this mean that the extra special club of “your readers” might narrow down to what feels like a bare trickle? Yes, it does. That said, changes in publishing and the personal goals of the writer (covered in my last article) have a huge bearing on this form of sharing.
- OPEN groups face-to-face: Exact same as above. However, these groups tend to be more productive since they involve real-time relationships and people are more invested in each other and how others perceive them.
- CLOSED workshop & critique face-to-face: These are often the groups with more serious and/or skilled writers. They should be led or facilitated by a person who is both actively writing and is skilled at facilitating writing workshops and critique. There is a vetting process involved as these groups open according to invitation or enrollment. That said, they can be free or not; they can also be organized by a range of individuals, groups, programs, or schools. These can occur online or in-person.
- CLOSED “special readers”: Most publishing writers have a personal reading committee. Guess who else sees their work? No one. No one except their editor, and this usually happens later than the committee share. The committee is usually composed of a very, small group of mentors, collaborators, and peers who the writer implicitly trusts and respects.
An Annoying Aside: Why Are you Sharing?
It’s really annoying yet important to be as self-aware as you can during the process of sharing writing. It’s really important to understand how motivations can harm your creative power. I can think of a few basic reasons writers come to the table. Usually, there’s a mixture and that’s okay because we are wonderfully complex individuals. But I find that too much of certain motivations can place a writer at risk.
- Attention, reputation, and social currency: Respect and appreciation is a basic human need. But it’s important to keep this one reigned in as you go about the serious work of growing your writing. It can cause writers to over-share, share too early, and/or share with the wrong people.
- Ego-gratification: This is the dark side of the above reason. Now, we have egos for a damn good reason. They take care of us as we go about our practical day-to-days. But bringing your ego to the table is never a good idea for anyone: you, your writing, or your process. And remember, there are always 3 of you in the room!
- Affirmation & identity – This is heavily related to the first reason. Again, we have a basic human need that can get messy at the table. It can cause people to over-share, share too early, and/or share with the wrong people.
- To receive feedback in order to test and/or improve concept, style, or effectiveness: This is a common and explicit goal and should be at the top of a writer’s list when coming to the table. Like I said, the others are not negative in and of themselves but this reason should be vastly predominant. It will help keep the others in line. It’s also a centering goal when things get tough or when you come up against internal obstacles (see above for examples). It keeps you focused on the work, not yourself.
So how do you know a writing group or person is right for you?
The writing – the work – is like a frail little nest of newborn sparrows passed carefully from hand to hand, bony rib cages fluttering with shattering breath. This is a magical passing. A good writing group or share will always have this feeling tone: one of safety, containment, protection, and nurturing as one undergoes the difficult work of growth and survival. If you have identified the type of writer you are and your goals then you should be able to easily access each sharing opportunity for this quality.
Okay, that’s all for now. It’s lunchtime after all! I’ll be back this weekend with a delicious and super-smart prompt for you. Until then, remember:
Big Feathery Angel Hugs, Cynthia
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This is very contrary to the usual advice I see on WordPress, which seems to be, “Get it out there! Anywhere!”
You’re correct, desperation for feedback or ego-soothing could be a little dangerous and hold you back.
Thanks. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to write this — I think there’s a lot of very conventional advice out there that’s not helpful to many writers. I want people to feel OK about controlling their process and making the best decisions possible.
I love your perceptive analysis, and it points towards a common problem, which is not being honest with oneself and/or others. Some people say they share to receive critique and hints, and then when they do, they get very offended because really they were only looking for affirmation.
Critique you’re not ready for can hurt so much, that’s why the clarity you propose is so important. This should be a must-read for aspiring writers 🙂