Monday, December 14, 2009

Writing Groups Continued

In addition to the writing I do with my solitary partner, I often sit in on other groups. This weekend, for instance, a fine group leader, Carolyn Jennings, led a clutch of us through a series of guided efforts focused on the present holiday season. We wrote in short blocks of time and evaluated our own efforts with a series of questions meant to deepen our understanding of our language and feelings and ideas. At one point we were invited to share a character sketch with a partner, or not. I chose not. The sketch I had put on paper is bothersome, a bit of autobiography I've struggled to bring to light for years, a lot of years. And the child in that sketch defies my every attempt to understand her. Or maybe she defies my attempt to use her for my current purpose--to put into a poem the long shadow that she casts on my life. One of these days I'll share it, but not yet. I have to do more work around this image before I can push it out into the open.

One of the risks of group critique and sharing is the possibility that we let the piece out of our hands before we have realized it. We haven't the confidence yet that it will say something we want to say or to discover or whatever moves us to write in the first place. (Was there poetry in Eden, the First Place?) A fellow from another group I go to regularly found a wonderful article that addresses this problem: Help, I'm Going Hoarse! Don't Lose Your Voice in Critiques by Becci Clayton . As you'll see, she warns against taking all the advice we hear from other writers. If, as happened to me recently, a critique identifies a problem area that you already suspected, good. Listen and take it seriously. But if you find yourself resisting with every cell in your brain what another writer tells you to do, listen to yourself with equal intensity. Don't become a clone of someone else. Find the confidence to say, at least sotto voce, but this is what I wanted to write. And go on with your work.

No comments: