Critique is such a harsh word. And while all writers benefit from the constructive feedback of a critique group, often what our writing really needs is support and encouragement.
A few years ago, the ladies of 24 Carrot Writing formed a writing support group. We gathered monthly but never read a single manuscript. Not even one sentence. Instead we talked openly and candidly about our writing dreams, set monthly goals and whined about the obstacles we were encountering. Every good support group needs to make space for a little whining.
Our support group has become an essential element to our writing success.
Find Your People
On the Today Show, Al Roker sometimes perches above the crowd on the plaza and commandingly declares, “My People, my people”. You need to be Al Roker and find your people; your fellow writers.
I know this is easier in theory than practice, but remember you are looking for supporters not critiquers. Isn’t that much less intimidating? You are putting a little toe in the water here. No one will be reading your work. You will only be sharing your writing goals and not your actual writing. Did you just feel your shoulders relax as you let out a nervous breath?
Look for your supporters at conferences, in local writing classes or through online groups. We found it worked best to meet face to face, so seek out a group of writers in or near your hometown. Your local librarian might be a good place to start for leads.
It will feel natural to ask fellow writers to get together to talk about writing rather than to ask them to read your manuscript. Go ahead try it.
All You Need is Love
A writing support group balances out the critique group. We need feedback and critique of our writing but very often what we really need is a good pep talk to keep going.
A support group is there to boost you when the latest rejection has sent you plummeting into self- doubt. Or when you have let your writing goals lag and you need a gentle shove to get going again. Don’t read each other’s manuscripts. This is a group about goal setting and achievement, not about a detailed analysis of a manuscript. In the words of the Beatles, all you need is love and this group is a little shot of love for your writing dreams.
At the close of each support group meeting, we go around the table and list our goals for the coming month. Then each meeting starts with a reporting on how we did meeting our goals. Saying your goals out loud to supportive folks, who understand exactly what sort of effort will go into meeting those goals, is incredibly motivating.
The folks in your support group will help you assess your goal. Is that goal attainable? Should you scale it back? Or can you go bigger? Only your fellow writers can really know the work that you are proposing to undertake, and they will be a great tool in guiding you in goal setting.
The actual writing happens solo, but a group of like-minded writers can support that solo endeavor. Find your support group, pick out a nice café then sit and chat about writing. It will be your favorite day of the month.