Tuesday night is my writing group night. It’s my time to get feedback and support for my work. Last night, my reading was followed by a pause. More accurately, a very long pause. Then Lee spoke up, “I didn’t get interested until here.” I watched her finger slide down the page, then another page, until it pointed to the final paragraph. “Oh,” I said, “not until quite far in.”
I have learned not to talk when this happens. My instinct is to defend myself. Even, at times, to cry. Instead, I shut up and listen.
I should explain that I absolutely trust these women. They have my back. So if they say it stinks–it more than likely does. By listening to what they have to say, I often learn exactly how to fix my piece. I agree with about 90% of the comments they make, and yet feel free to disregard those that don’t make sense to me. Bottom line, though––they make me a better writer.
Having read many an article and biography about famous writers, I realize most of them worked closely with editors and friends who helped to shape their work. Raymond Carver’s work, before and after editing, is barely recognizable as one and the same. And even remarkably talented writers have bad days. We need wise and discerning readers to tell us when it just isn’t working.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find a writer’s group that believes in you enough to tell you the truth.
After all, sometimes we’re hot and sometimes we’re not!