I talk a lot here about the structure of a critique group and about the critiquing process. As you all know by now (and are perhaps tired of hearing!), I’m a big believer in the power of a strong group to help us build our writing skills and move our projects forward.
What I haven’t talked about as much is the importance I also place on the community a good critique group gives us.
By now, it’s a cliche to say that writers spend a good part of their work-time alone, even lonely. For some of us, that’s the best way to focus on the writing, to get words out of our minds and into the story. There’s part of that life, thought, that can make it harder to stay writing, to really define ourselves as writers. And that’s the part of spending our non-work time with family and friends who may have no idea what this thing we do feels like.
How many times has someone asked you “How the book’s going?” and then looked confused and muddled when you don’t have a straightforward answer like, “Oh, it’s going to be published next week.”
I once heard an author talk who co-write all her mysteries with her sister. She said the best thing about co-authoring a book was that you had another person who, at any time, on any day, really wanted to talk about your writing. 🙂
A critique group is, at it’s root, a steady reminder that what we are doing is not only important and justifiable, but incredible, exciting, and sometimes just darned fun. As different as we all are, the members of our critique groups are a bit like mirrors–people we can look at and see as authors, people who send that reflection back to us–recognition that we’re authors, too. When someone in our group has a success, that success becomes a possibility for the rest of us; when they “fail,” we’re there to point out how many times they’ve seen us slip, too, then get up and keep writing. A critique group is a statement of value about what we’re doing, one that–if we write alone and in a void–is hard to always remember.
The Internet–with its blogs and social-networking sites is, of course, an extension of this community. Writing conferences, too, are a place to reach out and make more connections, to grow a bigger circle.
A strong critique group, though, is the base on which this circle gets built. And, for me, it’s the base on which I know I can build my own, powerful writing path.