Friday, January 25, 2008

Any group that would have me as a member...

If it’s Friday, it must be Charles

Interesting post on critique groups Debby, especially the mechanics of it all.

I belong to a critique group as well, one where I share the stuff I’ve been working on and listen to their feedback. Unfortunately, every one in my group is a hyper-critical, mean-spirited, know-it-all asshole who tears apart everything I write, blows holes in every plot I come up with, and rips every idea I suggest. I should also point out that my group lives exclusively in my head.

Everything I write – including that last paragraph – gets reviewed by those voices, and it’s a rare day indeed that I write something they all like.

“A rare day indeed” – what kind of shitty hack cliché writing is that?

See what I mean?

They’re not all like that, though. There’s the kindly ‘you can do it’ voice that’s more often a whisper, and the ‘weeeeee this is fun!’ lunatic that gets off on the whole process, and the voice that loves everything I write but that one only comes out after too many gin & tonics. The loudest voices are the most critical ones, and typing over their shouts is sometimes the hardest part of writing. They are legion. There’s the ‘you bore me’ voice, the ‘you’re so damn predictable’ voice, the ‘you are too far out there’ voice, the ‘that’s not funny’ voice, the ‘didn’t you just say that two pages ago?’ voice, and about a dozen others I have yet to categorize.

The loudest of late has been the ‘why do you bother?’ voice, and I gotta tell you, he makes a lot of sense. He brings up things like time spent writing compared to money earned from royalties, how great reviews haven’t made me a household name, and how fewer and fewer people read anything these days. He notes that my writing has kept me from really improving on the saxophone and how I will always pass up a chance to go to the gym – something that can truly improve my life and help me live longer – for the chance to tweak the same paragraph for the 43rd time. But his best argument is when he points out that while I’m up here writing, Rose is by herself, ignored. That one gets me because nothing I write – nothing I do – is as important to me as Rose, and I’ll tell you, when he goes down that road he really gets to me. He’s loud. In fact, he’s so damn loud that Rose hears him, too. But fortunately for me, she says all the things a writer needs a loved one to say, and I’m back up here typing away.

There is one voice in my critique group that I live to hear. He doesn’t speak up that often, but when he does, the other voices disappear. He was there the other day as I wrote a scene for the book I’m working on. “That,” he said as I typed the period and hit save, “is damn fine writing.”

I love that guy.


PS - check this out.

1 comment:

Rick Blechta said...

As always, Charles, a thought-provoking entry (that totally smoked mine by the way).

When I get down (and that's more often than I'll admit, even to the group here), I try to look at the long view on this, all the hours I'm spending writing, all the calls I make, personal promo I design, effort I put into being as good a writer and author as I can be.

What is the long view?

It's this: 20 or 30 years from now (if I should be so lucky), I will be able to hold in my hands the books I produced. My kids will show them to their kids, maybe even their grandkids, point at me and say, "He wrote these, you know."

They may even read them and like them -- and not because grandpa wrote them. I will have produced something of value. Maybe it won't have made me a lot of money or into a household name, but I will know that they are my doing, and I will be proud of them, warts and all.

How many people can say that about their work?

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Looked at the link. I thought the copy at the beginning was referring to your recent book launch.