Friday, July 27, 2007

Writing Life: My Old Writing Group

I used to have a writing group I put together after my writing class ended. There were four or five of us who got together a few times. We would all struggle to write something to bring to each meeting. Oftentimes, they would only have a page or half a page of materials. It seems I was the only one who would bring entire first draft stories. Then all those good intentions dried up and real life took over. All of these people kept saying they were interested in writing, but none really wanted to keep it up. That's because writing novels, short stories and plays requires an enormous amount of time and focus.

One interesting thing I noticed about the good folks in my writing group is how most of them would strive to be clever and funny. Now, it's true they sometimes wrote funny things, but such a thing is difficult to maintain unless it comes naturally. And I mean so naturally that when you write something down, you don't really notice it unless someone mentions it to you. When someone tells you how funny you are, you sort of shrug it off because it's just what "comes out" sometimes.

I am not like that. I know one guy who truly inhabits that place. Everyone else I've ever known who wants to be in that place is trying way too hard.

Lately, probably because of this book on writing, I've been thinking of finding another group to join. Shouldn't be too difficult here in San Francisco, right? There have to be would be, struggling writers crawling all over the place. I can see that I am doing almost everything in my life in isolation. I need to join a pack of like-minded people.

I have mixed feelings about someone "critiquing" my work. I used to have people do that in my writing class. My writing was different from the funny, clever things they would write and the subject matter of my stories was usually dark. I'm not sure why, but they would find all kinds of motivations and symbolism in my writing too. It was interesting and gave my stories a life outside of me, but at the same time it would seem like some people were trying to psychoanalyze my characters' motivations.

I'm curious to see what kind of groups are out there and finding one I feel productive and comfortable in. It's a strange business. You write completely alone and yet you need people all along the way: to read your rough drafts, to help you find a publisher or agent, to help you edit and prepare for publication. I think I've spent way too much time alone lately. Time to see what groups will have me.

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