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Weirding people out since 2006.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Critique Groups: Part One

Sometimes the Universe has to smack me upside the head with a 2x4 so I get the point. Other times, it doesn't have to. This, however, is one of those times that it most certainly has, but alright, I'm listening now. The question is, will the Universe listen to me? Hmmmm...maybe, but only if I know what I want from it and I've got some mojo going.

In this case, the Universe has been sending me messages all over the gamut that I need to join a critique group. Why the hell it would do this since I have no verifiable proof of having written anything other than my blog, a handful of pages in basic character outlining for my current project, and a pile of ashes is beyond me. But there it is. The Universe has deemed it so, therefore I must either form or join a critique group.

A little history on my prior experience with a critique group. As is traditional, this group met in a library on a monthly basis. So far so good. Also the fact that they were an honest bunch of folks that neither sugar-coated nor slammed anyone's work worked in their favor. Bonus points for having members who were willing to read novel partials in their own time without any sense of dishonesty as well as a group with a solid core. I'm saying all this because despite the fact it was, in all senses of the word a Writer's Digest template for what a critique group should be, it most certainly was not for me.

Why? It was a matter of genre. The handful of writers there wrote mostly fluff pieces with a handful bordering on angst-ish, heartbreaks and "Oh whoa is me, my goldfish died" analogous poetry (apparently this piece had deeper meaning which, I, not truly being a poet, totally missed). Making matters worse by a ten-fold was that this was a time in my life when I was experimenting with mythological symbology as well as a variety of religious archetypes that made my stuff, at best, complex reading.

In other words, I was completely vulnerable to any kind of input because I knew I was breaking the mold of "what I knew" and venturing into that territory of "what I wish I knew." Add in the fact that these were blood-soaked mind-fucks of the most gruesomely horrific sort and the majority of my critiques (once they got past the "landed fish" gaping stare) were tentative at best, somewhere between "I don't get it" and "Are you sure it's not too scary?"

It didn't take me long to realize that this group was not for me. Nor did it take to long for me to realize that my writing experiments as a whole had left me a void, but not a voice. I felt horrible, as if somehow I had failed my writing. I didn't feel that the writing was bad, but that I couldn't be true to both it and myself at the same time.

So, I did what anyone trying to regain their sanity would do. I set fire to the whole shebang. And what a glorious campfire it was complete with marshmallows and hotdogs. The irony being that it was the ghost stories going up in the flames as opposed to being told around them.

And for a year, I didn't write a word outside of a thank you note.

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