I’ve been going to three writing groups a month for ten to twelve years. That’s a lot of critiquing, editing, and being critiqued. Of course, I sometimes take a break as well, from one or another of them. It’s growth work to sit in a room and have people tear holes in your work. It builds a thick skin. It makes you vulnerable. It leaves you open to grow, not only as a writer, but as a person. You see, you have to keep your mouth shut to really appreciate what other people are saying, to not defend your work or your reasoning behind the work. Why? Because your readers will do the same thing and if you defend or retaliate to the validity of your work, you will lose a reader. At least, I think so. I’ve seen writers get so defensive on line that the comments they get in return become caustic. And it just gets worse. Best just to say thank you and move forward.

A critique group is one of the best tools in the world to learn to be a better writer. Of course you’re going to get every type of personality and ego out there. That’s part of the charm and the curse of writing groups.

Some will be grateful that you shared with them, and a piece of your soul; some will be joyous at the effort it took for you to share. Some call that bravery. I do. Especially if you’re shy or introverted, or both. Some are happy to help you improve your writing. They do this with suggestions to make your writing better: how to change your voice; words choices to make stronger sentences; ways to improve characterization, and heaven forbid, grammar and punctuation changes. The last is a slippery slope as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t matter in a group because if you care about your work, it’s the last thing you do to make your work polished. You may even pay an editor to do this for you, but in a critique group, you’re showing first and second drafts and at that point, it’s all the other stuff that needs details to improve your story.

You will also meet people who will tell you their way of writing is the only way; people who don’t care because it’s not in their genre, and have nothing to say to improve the writing, so it becomes a “why did you write that,” kind of thing; and those that don’t know how to be positive.

Go back to the first paragraph and see the comment about thick skin.

Writing holds a lot of rejection. Get used to it. Learn from it. Listen to the things that most people reinforce, this means it’s being noticed and there may be something wrong there. Things mentioned only once, may really be only personal opinion, and everyone knows what that means on the grand scale of things.

But a writing group should point out your strengths and weaknesses. That’s the important thing. That’s how you grow. It takes time. Be patient.

Give yourself that chance.

Hug someone today.