Writing groups – Rapid growth or stifling? How about both. I’ve benefited immensely from feedback, such as I received from my first writing group. I took a college class in creative writing class and was humbled and awed by the feedback I received. Almost as valuable was hearing other’s critique each other. I learned how to compliment what worked and identify what doesn’t.
That being said, I have experienced the other side. I attended a writer’s groups that was actually detrimental to my writing. Part of that was my own fault. You see, I am an extrovert. That doesn’t just mean I am friendly and outgoing. It means I get energy from social interaction. And I probably rely too much on input from others. And people can be wrong. Very wrong.
I’m still new at recognizing my own writing voice. Fortunately, I have a few talented and smart people close to me. (Well, virtually close.) One is Ian Saul Whitcomb, who reread my current piece after I did some editing based on a bunch of feedback from my writers group. Ian correctly called out my edits and said they didn’t sound like my voice. He gets me.
The writers group I had attended consisted of people with entirely different styles than my own. The two with the loudest opinions write Sci-fi plot driven stories, while I write character driven stories with quirky characters. It should not have been a surprise that they didn’t “get” it, and wanted a ton of details and more action. They tried to shape me into their mold through insults. By the way, if you have never benefited from a writers group, this is not the norm. Most intend to be helpful and actually are. I somehow landed in a pool of rude-dudes and hostile women.
I need to remember that their great conviction in their own opinion didn’t overshadow my own inner voice that believes my characters are fascinating. The voice that reminds me to trust the intelligence of my readers who enjoy implicit writing.
I still believe in the importance of feedback, but will be very careful about who I allow to do the feeding. If they don’t get my style, there are people who do and I am deeply grateful. As an exuberant extrovert who has recently had her wings crushed, I need to be careful who I spend my time with and who I listen to. Meanwhile, I am learning to trust my own voice. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it has to be mine.