Thursday, October 31, 2013

Back to the Group

            Last time, as you may remember, my anger got the best of me one night at the group workshop because of some arrogant comments.  I didn’t lash out or make an ass out of myself.  I could have.  I wanted to.  At the end of the night, I simply packed up my stuff and left.  For six months.  She was over the top.  I had no experience and she knew it.  It was like Mike Tyson fighting someone from the neighborhood and not stopping, not cutting the person any slack.  There was no teaching involved, just the relentless pounding for her own entertainment.

            During my time away, I studied all the critique comments I had kept.  I had already begun to learn who I could trust.  David and Mike had become early favorites of mine.  They told it how it was.  Mike could be brutal, but did so with a great sense of humor, something I could relate to.  David, the leader, I trusted anyway.  I didn’t always understand what he was saying, but I studied the comments, trying to understand the meaning during the six months away.

            Every so often, I would get a gentle email from David.  Just a friendly hello.  He wouldn’t press me.  He never asked me to come back.  He just wanted to know the group missed me and that they were there for me.  That’s it.  No message every week.  Maybe once a month or every six weeks.  He didn’t have to send them.  The group never left my mind.  My manuscript never left my thoughts or my fingers.  I could never leave it alone.

            As I worked through the comments, I kept tinkering with the story.  I bought books and studied more.  I learned about POV.  Things began to sink in.  I signed up for classes at the Indiana Writer’s Center.  I took two classes during my time away from the group.  David taught both of them.  It was good to see him again.  One of the classes involved the beginning of novels and stories in general, and how important they are.  During that 6 week class I re-wrote the opening to my novel.  I condensed it greatly, eliminated how many characters were in it, and made it much more powerful.

            From the two classes I took, David and I were able to talk.  He told me the woman who I had so much trouble with had left the group.  I really didn’t wish for that to happen.  I was hoping we could work things out honestly.  He asked me come back.  The fact was that I had regretted leaving since the night I left.  The group had proved to be exactly what I needed.  They had the skill and the knowledge I lacked.  I had so much to learn and they were the ones to teach me.  My obstacle was myself.  The problem wasn’t some woman with an ego bigger than my own.  The problem was my own pain and anger and that I couldn’t let another human know about it other than my wife.  I was so afraid of letting that anger out in a meeting that I left the group for six months rather than show how ugly I can be.

            So I came back.  The same people smiling, minus one.  Maybe they thought I was some kind of quitter.  Who knows.  No one, not even my parents or my grown kids knew of my personal pain and agony, so I was not about to tell these people about it.  Let them think I was a quitter.  I jumped back in.  For the first few sessions, I critiqued other people.  Then came the prodding.  Submit.  Submit.  David told the group I had a new beginning.  Around this time the lovely Heather joined the Indiana Writer’s Center and our group.  I bit the bullet and started to submit again.  Here we go again.  Did I learn anything?


  1. You've hit on one of the potential pitfalls of a group like ours, where we are open to anyone who is a member of the IWC. The good news is that your critiquer was genuinely mortified when I shared your reaction to the critique and she also recognized how inappropriate the tone had been. Glad you've stuck with that hilly journey and our group.

  2. Well, as I said, it wasn't all her fault, and hence the lesson here for all writers seeking a group and feedback from any group. You have to have thick skin and if you don't you have to have patience to develop it. My development of thick skin was hampered by own pain issue which magnified my lack of patience. I'm sorry if I keep bringing this up, but it does tie all together with writing and getting better as a writer.

  3. Keith, I can certainly relate to receiving tone death criticism. More often than not, at least in my case, the actual points hidden under all that festering rubish was correct. Sift.

  4. I think all writers and critiquers have run into this at some time, but we writers can take it so personally. And we do.
    I think I may write more about this on Monday.