Monday, December 15, 2008
Doom! Gloom! and Critique Groups
by Clare Langley-Hawthorne
I've been in the same critique group for over five years now and although it's been reconstituted in various forms there has been a constant core group of people who have provided me with considerable and (often) much needed support...But as 2008 draws to a close my writing group has started to feel decidedly disenchanted, jaded and (dare I say it) depressed...and I'm starting to fear it's partly due to me.
As the only published writer in the group I used to at least provide a bit of hope and some inspiration but now, given all the doom and gloom in the publishing industry, the group is starting to view the road to becoming and staying a published author as an insurmountable obstacle course. Sure I may have cleared the first few hurdles but now, as they watch me continue to traverse the mine field they are starting to ask - when does it ever get to be easy? I confess that I suspect it never does...that the obstacle race is never over, the hurdles just change...and then the group sinks back into despair once more.
Some members have said jokingly it's time we started writing erotica (okay, I confess I was one of them!) because hey, maybe we'd actually make money if we did...but then we all give ourselves a reality check and realize we cannot change what we write. As for most writers we tell the stories that need to be told - that well up from within and pour on to the page. We can't write to the market or try and pretend to be a different kind of writer (damn, damn, damn!).
My writing group meets every second Friday and, up until June this year, people were battling on but upbeat and determined. Now the group is teetering on the edge of despondency. While ruminating on this week's blog I visited despair.com, thinking there might be some funny one-liners from their spoof on the inspirational posters we've all seen gracing corporate America's walls. But while lines such as "Limitations - until you spread your wings, you'll have no idea how far you can walk", raised a smile I realized that the LAST thing we needed was more 'demotivation' for our work!
I keep thinking of that hilarious sci-fi spoof Galaxy Quest and I feel like I've turned into the Tim Allen character who cries "Never Give Up; Never Surrender!" from the bridge of his ridiculous spacecraft just as he faces probable annihilation...
So I'm turning to you all for advice. How can a writing and critique group support one another in these challenging times? What is the single best thing you have come away from this year, in terms of your writing, that might buoy the hopes of both the published and the unpublished writer?