WANA: We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.
I’ve hijacked David’s blog again! He’s being held hostage at Marcia’s Richard’s blog. He will be released later today, starting in the comments section, but only if you voice your opinions loudly and proudly below! Until that time, I’m taking over, and I’ll be talking about the value of critique groups.
All of us have goals. We want to find a job we love, save some real money this year, learn to make beef bourguignon, whatever! What we don’t always do so well is ask for help, real help. When striving for something new, the chances for success exponentially improve when you write your goal down and start talking about it with people around you. So wouldn’t your odds of success be even greater if the people around you gave honest and open feedback?
I’ll give you an example. I don’t know how many of you took a creative writing class at some point in your educational career, but I had a class in college where we all sat in a big circle and took turns sharing our poems and short stories to the group then asked for feedback. The replies usually sounded something like “I like the title. It all went together. I thought the character was good. I like you, do you like me? Circle yes or no.”
Ok, maybe that last one wasn’t in there, but you get the point. In traditional critique groups it’s hard to get real feedback. Everyone’s sitting in the circle not wanting to speak up or not wanting to hurt the writer’s feelings so they focus on only the good comments. And good is good! We want to know what’s working well, but we also need to know what’s NOT working well. The reality is after you submit your work for publication, it goes into a pile read by someone you don’t know who is BRUTALLY honest.
Here’s what I know. I also took a literary publication class and acted as poetry editor with a team of readers. We didn’t know all the individuals of the odd 400-some submissions. We had to weed through for the best. And we were harsh! We didn’t have the time or energy to look at each poem and say “Gosh, this author spent a long time thinking up words for his acrostic poem! He sure is swell!”
N – Needs
O – Only
P – Practical
E – Editing
The best thing we all can do for achieving our goals is to have a person or group keep us accountable and willingly give honest advice. For those of you who are writers looking for critique groups, check out Social Media Expert for Writers, Kristen Lamb’s post A New Approach to a Traditional Group: The Concept Critique. She has great things to think about when looking for a good set of eyes to assist your work.
Other examples of critique groups and support networks that work include Kristen’s #MyWANA hashtag and WANA author brand classes. Taking her book’s theme, We Are Not Alone, Kristen created both a twitterverse and class group of writers wanting to help other writers. The hashtag is designed as a place for you to find inspiration, tips, research help, useful links, and oh yah, laughter! Her classes also formed their own hashtags of #WANA711 and #WANA1011 where we continue to support one another by tweeting for each other’s blogs, sharing useful links, promoting new works, getting feedback on others, etc. Stop by sometime, we’re a friendly bunch!
Not a writer? No problem! Ask about joining the Life List Club, or start your own with friends or other bloggers who you know will give you honest feedback. While a lot of the Life List Club seems like fun and games of guest blogging, we’re doing this with a goal in mind. All of our contributors and members are working on their “to do” lists for life. We hold milestone parties and give updates because we have to hold each other accountable to what we committed to do. None of us are perfect as we start out on this journey, heck, we’re over 6 months in, and some of us still have lessons to learn about our goals. The point is, we’re benefiting from the group’s advice. What you don’t see is a lot of emails and behind the scenes work we do, helping match up, host, and promote other guest bloggers, getting successful ideas on our resolutions, support when we’re making big changes, and even a reaming out if it’s necessary to make deadline.
So ask yourself, who are the people supporting the dreams and big changes in your life? You may not have even met them. Don’t forget how powerful this blogosphere can be! Check with your local library about discussion groups, be a mentor yourself and work with a non-profit like Big Brothers Big Sisters, invest in a personal trainer that is going to motivate and energize you. The sky is the limit! What’s holding you back from getting the help you need and deserve?
Bio: Jess Witkins claims the title Perseverance Expert. She grew up in a small Wisconsin town as the much younger youngest sibling of four, she’s witnessed the paranormal, jumped out of a plane, worked in retail, traveled to exotic locations like Italy, Ireland, and Shipshewana, Indiana, and she’s eaten bologna and lived to tell about it! She deals with it all and writes about it! Come along on her midwest adventures; Witkins promises to keep it honest and entertaining. Go ahead, SUBSCRIBE, you know you want to.
Follow on Twitter: @jesswitkins
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Honest feedback is definitely important. And when that honest feedback isn’t brutal but encouraging it’s that much more constructive.
Agreed! It’s not about being mean, but having an open dialogue to ask questions and try new ideas, they may lead you to something spectacular!
Hi Jess. Good commentary. Glad to hear you have a support group. I think one of the key things to getting honest, impartial critique is to have a wider relationship with the group than just discussing your/their work. Friendship breaks down lots of barriers both to giving and receiving critique.
I agree. And its evident in the WWBC group. The support that comes from the group when somebody’s dealing with a lot is overwhelmingly wonderful.
Hey, Jess, fabulous post (though David needs to add some paragraph breaks to it – his template’s different than ours).
I am very blessed by a great critique group and I think the real saving grace is that we all want each other’s stories as much as the author. We want them to be amazing and to sell and make tons of money.
Because we have that knowledge behind every critique, we are able to be very honest and make each other’s stories better. That magic has branched into our group site, Writers In The Storm. It’s lovely.
I love hearing that that honesty blossomed into another venue like your blog. That’s a great example of how honest feedback and investment in our peers helps all of us. Thanks for the comment Jenny!
Great post, Jess! The “do you like me, check yes or no” totally cracked me up! That’s how I feel when I see the (often rejection) e-mails on my submissions (Before I open them, of course! After I open them, I know the answer ;))
Support is so important. We’re a community-building society. Humans would never have survived if we didn’t band together early on in our shared history. It only makes sense that we grow better with support!
That’s a very good way of thinking about those submission letters. And just like we have to take a chance on love, we must do that with our writing also. Good analogy, Lara!
Having supporters who can also tell the truth is huge for moving a project or just your life list goals along. So glad we have you, Jess!
All because you shot me an e-mail! So glad to have YOU, Marcia!
Jess, After reading the description of your creative writing class, I think I want to take one just like it. On a serious note, I really have been thinking about a creative writing class, and it couldn’t hurt. One idea could be to have Granny Clampett in the class. At the start of each, she would stand up and put on her trademark scowl, wave her finger and say, “First person to make a nice comment gets it!”
Hey I like that approach! She’d be a great moderator!
these are some really good points, Jess. So glad I stumbled over her today. 🙂
Thanks Darlene. I’m so glad you chose to spend your Friday with the LLC gang. How’s it going on your own list?
Jess, I don’t even know if I have a list! I would love to get in on this.. truth be told, I am super scared!
Gosh Darlene, if only there was a supportive group of friends who shared a common goal of inspiring one another and holding each other accountable towards their dreams. Hmmmmm…. wouldn’t that be something?
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