I had a great afternoon with my writing group today. We’ve dubbed ourselves the Central Florida Inklings, modeled, as our website says, “after the Oxford University group that was once home to literary greats like J. R. R. Tolkein, C. S. Lewis, and other authors with initials,” and we meet just about every Sunday to write and/or talk about writing.
One of the things I love about this group is how supportive we all are of each other. I happily share my successes with them because their feedback and support has been so valuable in getting my novel into the shape it is. And I’m so incredibly thankful for them.
But what I think I appreciate the most is that they, as fellow writers, get it. They understand when I’m frustrated because I can’t figure out how to get a character from Point A to Point B, and they know how it feels to have an idea that excites you like crazy. They aren’t afraid to tell me, “I think [character] would react bigger to that situation,” or, “This part bothers me because it just doesn’t feel true.” And they aren’t offended when I provide feedback like, “I loved this but have no idea what your main character looks like,” or, “This part just seems really slow, especially compared to the pacing that comes later.”
Writing is a subjective business. If you really want to be a great writer, you can’t afford to be sensitive or defensive about your writing. You can’t afford to be too attached to your words, your settings, or even your characters. You have to be willing to listen to the feedback, really listen, and embrace the spirit of what they’re telling you to go back and make it great.
The thing is, that’s something that my writer friends get but my non-writer friends – no, my non-artist friends – well, they don’t quite understand it. If I ask them to read something and critique it, they’ll tell me, “Oh, I really liked it!” or “That was really good!” And I just feel like screaming at them. What did you like about it? How was it really good? Did you connect with the characters? Do you have a crush on Tim? (Everyone has a crush on Tim.)
So, yes. I’m eternally grateful to my fellow Inklings, if for nothing else than for being a group that understands me. I truly believe my work is better because I am among them.