Monday, August 26, 2013

Submitting to a Writing Group


You wait for the comments and feedback.  You hope for praise and adoration.  

Then you go to the writing group.  You show up early.  You decide to smoke a cigarette.  It is still twenty minutes before group begins, so you decide to smoke another cigarette standing underneath the strange viny trellises outside the front entrance.  A biologist might know what those flowers are, climbing up and around the walkway in front of the entrance, but you are no plant person.  Maybe a cup of coffee would be a good idea, but your hands have already begun to shake from the sixteen cups of coffee you have had to drink that day.

You tell yourself you're not nervous.  You tell yourself that it's just a group of strangers, and their opinions do not really mean that much to you.

You know you are lying to yourself, but this is what you tell yourself anyway.

You light another cigarette.  

The others start to show up, and as seems to be tradition, no one talks about writing before the group.  You talk about work and politics and religion.  Nothing seems too offensive or too touchy for this group.  Then you all file inside.  

You sit on one of the old Salvation Army-style couches facing a poster for the Gathering of Writers at the Indiana Writers Center.  Stacks--stacks-- of books and papers and pens and number 2 pencils and Styrofoam coffee cups and a few bottles of wine and a coffee pot  have found their way to table edges and room corners from the leftovers of meetings or gatherings or whatnot.

You had noticed this random collection before, but tonight, you do not really care.  You say a little prayer that you can handle whatever they dish at you.  Underneath the prayer, you're still hoping for adulations.

They start talking about your submission.  One of the guidelines of the group is that you can't talk while everyone else is discussing your piece.  To prevent yourself from sputtering some silliness, you fervently begin writing everything you can onto a legal pad balanced on your knees.

A tall doctor with a bald cap and white hair around his temples begins to speak.  He does not praise you.  You put your face closer to the paper and write faster.

Another man with shaggy brown hair and a laugh that makes you happy does not praise you either.  You want to say something.  You want to explain what you meant to say.  You want to try to tell them why they don't understand.

You lean back on the sofa and almost fall back into the uneven cushions.  You pull your knees awkwardly underneath you.  Your legal pad feels a little like a security blanket.

Many others speak.  In the end, you feel tired.  You want to explain.  You want to tell them what they missed.  No one understood.  No one got it.

And this is the problem.  You didn't write it.

You go outside for a cigarette.  


  1. We've all been there! For my baptism, I submitted seven pages--the sum total of everything I'd ever written--and I hung on every comment from those few who sat around the table. My heart leapt when one of them said "This is pretty nice" and I don't know that I heard another word after that....

  2. That first submission and meeting was the most frightening thing I can remember going through in years. I remember seeing smiling faces as they tore the flesh from my body. I'm pretty sure they all had horns and extra long fingernails.

  3. Oh, we weren't that bad, Keith. At least,, that's what I remember. Now, having said that, I've completely blocked my first submission from my memory.