On Writer’s Critique Groups and Ego

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I have a couple of confessions to make. First, I have to be really comfortable with a group of writers before sharing my writing offspring. It’s like knowing you have an ugly baby and are self-conscious about showing that child off. A polite group of friends will ahh, ooh, and congratulate you for a lovely infant, want to hold it, and are kind, no matter the homeliness of the unfortunate child’s face. Critique groups can be like that in that you may never get an honest opinion of the stinker you’ve produced, instead concentrating on the story’s good points and your skills as a writer. Gentle remarks on clarity, brevity, expansion, storyline create a friendly vibe in the group, and one doesn’t feel like she’s stepped into an abattoir.

The second confession? I’m truly chicken-shit about handing over a copy of my work. Why? Because I don’t want to be a parent of an ugly offspring. Yes, I’m really self-conscious and wary, and have lost editors when they returned my manuscripts with more red than a Morton’s Steakhouse super raw rib-eye. I’m still stuck in the fourth grade, needing stickers and an atta-girl for my effort, then a “let’s work on this part” message. Yes, I’m a wuss and unprofessional.

I’ve been lucky to belong to a writer’s critique group with talented and diverse genre authors, every shared chapter and publishers’ proposal a joy to read. We’ve been gentle and kind with each other, although they have let me know when a novel begins in the wrong place, and they were right. They’ve done it with respect and kindness.

Now our group has grown into a huge number, and my poor ugly baby stayed in my folder last night. I don’t feel comfortable with strangers, especially with a new short story never shared before, and one that needs affirmation and help. It’s not ready to be picked apart, but rather several pages need confirmation that there’s something there, something worth changing and feeding. I went home feeling depressed and unprofessional, knowing my baby’s printed-out pages were food for my shredder, Bruno.

So I’m in that stupid state amateur writers put themselves into frequently, a funk, a miasma of unproductive thought. It’s raining outside, which perfect fits my awful attitude towards writing this day. The real baby sits waiting in my Scrivener project folder, wanting more word count, more realism, and more cohesiveness, expansion, and creativity. I’ll opening a jar of time and will feed it this hour.

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