Monday, January 27, 2014

Getting It DOWN: Putting Pen to Paper

Sometimes trying to maneuver through life with a bag o' big buts can be awkward. Totally doable mind you, but awkward. Writing is one of those big buts. I write. I do not necessarily write well, but I write. I actually assume that everyone does and am often surprised when I hear from a friend or acquaintance that they do NOT write. Honestly doesn't everyone dream of writing something that someone will someday read and feel someway?

So, in order to attempt to shrink at least on of my big buts, I have been trying to write more. And share that writing more. I hope to sharpen and hone the skill a little at a time, but I really desire feedback and criticism that would aid in accomplishing that goal. So, I went to a writing group last week. Scary, yes. Fun, yes. Helpful, somewhat. It was the first time I had read any of my writing in a group…the scary part. Everyone shared something they had written…the fun part. My only disappointment was the lack of feedback. We shared our writing, but I was really hoping for more discussion and a few tidbits of criticism to help refine the writing. Maybe that is wishful thinking. Maybe people do not do that anymore. Perhaps gone are the days of the Shelleys and Byron or Wordsworth and Coleridge conferring, collaborating and analyzing.

So, since this is where all of the writing "friends" I have hang out (meaning the blogosphere) I ask, are those days gone? Perhaps things have simply changed? Maybe that is even a good thing? Rather than gathering on an estate outside of London; hashing out poetry and prose around the fire with friends and family, we can accomplish the same thing from our own kitchen tables from miles apart. Although, if you ask me, the London estate sounds inviting! I have come across a few blogs that invite folks to share writing, but rarely does anyone offer any real criticism. I love reading others' offerings and would be glad to share if I could come up with anything worth sharing. But even though I think the exercise is worthwhile (flexing our muscles and all) if we keep making the same mistakes, are we really getting any better at our craft? Am I a total dork? Don't answer that. Anyone have any thoughts?

Quote of the Day: " I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done."
--Steven Wright comedian and writer


6 comments:

  1. I took a writing class several years ago, and one of the purposes of the class was for the students to critique each others' writing samples. It was all online (a community ed class where none of us had to actually leave our homes), which I thought would ease my own embarrassment, as well as make it easier for everyone else to offer critiques. After all, we did't have to look anyone in the eye as we told them they have the writing skills of a pedantic lemur.

    But no. Turns out, half of the people didn't write critiques at all, and the ones who did had little to say, and were painfully polite. I get it--I was very kind myself, because who wants to tell someone their story, with which they're clearly in love, is only slightly less interesting than C-Span during a floor recess?

    So, maybe it's your friends/acquaintances/fellow writers: too nice. Or maybe it's just that everyone's so self-involved these days, they can't look past their own navels to issue a critique. I admire you for having the nerve to attend a writing group. I've never had the guts, myself. Except for a few anonymous weeks in an online writing course...

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  2. I hated writing for years after high school because of the comments I would get on my writing. I never felt like my ideas were worth anything. Granted, I was not the best writer, but it totally killed my desire to ever write again- until along came the idea to write a family newsletter of all things. Somehow it's safe to write about things that actually happened under the guise of preserving memories for future generations. Now I don't care what other people think about my writing there because it has a different purpose, but I'm still not sure I'm ready to move beyond that safety net. I am learning to like writing more than I ever thought I would and at least that's a step in the right direction. After all the school papers with kids, I'm learning to be a decent editor and am happy to help in that respect if you need someone. Good luck!

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  3. My best friend is my best critic, and I'm fortunate to have a few others who are willing to tell me what they think when I put something out there. But yes, family and friends are more polite than an educated stranger. Not sure if your library has a "writer-in-residence" program, but I took some writing to ours, and got more feedback in one go than I've had for the rest of my life! It was almost overwhelming... but good, too. I don't know how most writers find good writing groups, but they have to be out there somewhere, maybe online. If I stumble onto any, I'll let you know. Do the same for me?

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    1. Yes ma'am I will…and thanks for the tip!

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  4. Hi Leslie. Well, I'm trying to get back to blogging, just because I enjoy writing so much and I love reading your stuff. I still remember when I was a TA for you and Lane and I loved reading your papers. I kept wishing everyone would turn in things as easy and enjoyable to read as yours. Funny thing, I was young enough that I felt like I HAD to find something to correct or I wasn't doing a good job, and I never could with yours :)
    Maybe you don't get criticism 'cause your already so darn good!!!

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    1. I have stepped away from blogging for so many months that I just read this comment Shelley, and I cannot tell you how much it means! I love your writing, so I consider that a great compliment!! Although I think your memory may be slipping, as I recall plenty of things that could have been marked wrong with my college work!!!

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