As I find myself more than 5,000 words into the third-ish draft of the novel I have been working on since November 2008, I am getting overwhelmed by the unmistakable drowning feeling of utter confusion. I have no idea if what I am writing is any good. Is rewriting the entire beginning going to do this novel any good? It will, no doubt (though I haven’t admitted it to myself), result in having to rewrite the rest of the book as well. It’s a lot of work. And I am having trouble feeling confident with what I put down on the page without getting any feedback as to whether what I am writing is any good.
There are two questions: Why do I need someone else to tell me it’s good? And, why do I feel like all I would need to continue with confidence are the kind words of a trusted reader? I need the lift that an encouraging word can provide. I need someone to tell me it’s good. I need someone to tell me to keep going. I need someone to tell me they want to read more.
I have my cheerleaders. I certainly do. I love them. But I don’t trust them. Not for critical feedback. While is always nice to hear, “I am sure it’s amazing. You’re so talented,” (Who doesn’t want to hear that from time to time…or all the time? And I absolutely love my friends, especially my writing friends, for being amazingly supportive when I feel like nothing is coming out right. And these are people whose opinions I value, immeasurably.) But sometimes these things are hard to believe. It’s time for me to find people who don’t love my work unconditionally. I think it’s time for me to find a critique group.
I was part of a writing group that disbanded. I am not exactly sure why. I think it’s time to find a new one – one that will offer discipline as well as feedback. Okay, maybe I should be adding that to my list of goals. Find a critique group.
What a critique group could do for me:
*Honest feedback on what I’ve written: Writing is a solitary profession. No one can do it for me; I can’t delegate the work. My experience filters through my mind, I sift it through the plot I’ve concocted, and ends up in some version on the page. My words, my work, my writing…no one else’s. I’m on my own. Whenever I’ve tried to explain to someone what I am working on, I find something always gets lost in translation. The only way to get feedback is to share the work. A critique group is one of the answers. People gather with a similar pursuit, they’ll want me to read their stuff and comment, so they’ll be willing to do the same for me. And if it’s feedback that I feel I need, then a group is where to get it.
*I’ll meet other writers: Again, because writing is so solitary, writers need to make an effort to get out, meet each other, network and share experiences. I spend so much time in front of the computer – it might be nice to get out and meet some other local writers. There’s always the option of an online critique group, which I will not write off. Going online and sharing writing via email is certainly convenient. We’d never gone that route with my previous writing group, so it could be something to try.
*It’ll inject something new into my routine: For years now, I’ve been forcing myself to write – on the weekends, after work, late into the night. A writing group will inject a new dynamic into my writing life. I’ll get suggestions that will hopefully give me direction for my work during the coming week. I know that the best way to make progress at the gym is to switch up your routine. There’s no reason to expect that adding different workouts to my writing routine won’t help my muscle get stronger.
Okay, I have all but convinced myself that this is something I have to do. Now, according to what I learned from my Annual Review and what I anticipate will be a big part of my coaching group, which I’ll start on January 25th, I have to make a very clear and precise goal. Then if I don’t take care of that goal by a certain time, I have to decide now what I will have to sacrifice as a consequence. I will make myself go to work without makeup. Okay, so I will give myself a week to research critique groups and send emails inquiring about membership. In two weeks, I will have to commit to a group. If I don’t, then I go to work without makeup on. Ah!
In other news, I have been reading the amazingly talented and hard-working Gretchen Rubin’s new book The Happiness Project. I knew the book was coming out when I interviewed Gretchen for my article on How to Be Happy at Work for Forbes.com. I was amazed by the amount of knowledge she’d amassed and the volume of research she’s doing in an effort to decode happiness in all areas of life. The book chronicles the year Gretchen devoted to test-driving happiness theories and practices in order to up her level of happiness in her own life. I am up to “March” in the book wherein Gretchen tackles practices that can make you happy with your work. I look forward to learning more. But I was struck by the preparation Gretchen took on to embark on her happiness project. She outlined metrics and resolutions and commandments and core beliefs. I was also interested to learn that when Gretchen originally decided to launch her blog, she said she would blog a couple times a week. She was implored by friends to post everyday. So she did. She posted six days a week. And her posts are polished, well-researched and well-written. I stood more in awe than I was already.
With this, I think I will promise to post more often. Goal number two in this post: Post four times a week – maybe I’ll work my way up to six. I will post four times this week. Or else I will wear my uncomfortable brown patent-leather Mary Jane shoes to work with mismatched socks.
So, in summary: find critique group and post to blog more often. I guess as my year, or my January, is starting to progress, this is the month I tackle “work.”