Friday, August 1, 2008

Critique Groups

Love them or hate them, where there are writers, you will surely find critique groups. Some large, some intimate, some virtual. Ask a writer if they belong to one and you may hear strong reactions. "No way!" to "I wouldn't be where I am today without my critique group."

I am of the second opinion.

To an outsider, putting together a critique group might seem like easy business. As a founding member of a group that's been together for ten years, I can say it's daunting to find the right fit. Over the years people have come and gone for various reasons. Personalities clash, people decide it's not for them, or worse yet, the group as a whole feels a member is not living up to her/his end of the membership commitment. The group I belong to is finally at a point where all the members mesh well, coming together like the perfect writing stew.

Then I had to go buy a house in another state.

Yes. I'm physically leaving my critique group and it feels rotten. When I began this journey of writing, I never thought it would lead to friendship. Let's face it, most of the time we are alone in this. Toiling away at computer or notebook...gazing off into the distance...talking to ourselves...struggling to find the perfect word or phrase. And when we come up to take a breath, that loneliness can swallow you whole. If you understand that feeling, then you know how wonderful it is to find someone who relates to it. I am lucky enough to have found NINE other women who get it.

We meet two days a month from 10:00AM - 12:00PM, give or take a few minutes. For those four hours I'm my most undiluted self. My group knows a side of me even my closest friends don't. It's always blown me away when I really stop and think about it. We don't always share the details of our outer worlds, but our inner worlds? We are kindred spirits. Dream nurturers.

Each of us has our own talents we bring to the group. Enthusiasm, humor, wit, romance, sarcasm. I know whom I can count on for spot on grammar issues. And who will give me comments so honest it hurts (but in a good way). We help, cheer and console each other. In the brutal world of publishing, my group has been my secret tree house society. A place to retreat to. My group is always there to talk me off the ledge of "I Quit". Always there to remind me that writing for the sake of writing is also kind of fun too.

They have also given me something else. Courage. In myself and my writing. It's with this courage that I'm able to dream a new chapter for myself for a change. (Why should my characters have all the fun?) And it's with this courage, that when the time feels right, I'll be able to reach out again to other writers who might be looking for an addition to their group. I can only hope I'll be twice blessed.


  1. Okay - this one made me cry!
    I guess I haven't admitted to myself that you're really leaving. Maybe that was because I missed the "Good-bye Luncheon".
    I will miss seeing you twice a month. But I won't miss your critiques or your work....because that's not going to end. Thanks to the internet, we'll have another 10 years of cyber-critique group.

  2. What a beautiful post. I feel just as lucky to have our group, but I couldn't have expressed it half as well as you just did, Robin. We'll miss your physical presence but I'm so glad you'll be staying on as a virtual member--including blogger babe par excellence!

    Just one question: Which member am I--the enthusiastic, humorous, witty, romantic, sarcastic, grammatical, or brutally honest one? Do tell! ;-p

  3. Yes, technology will make it possible for Robin to remain a member of this secret tree house society. It won't be quite the same, but we'll take the challenge.

    And it bet it works! The relationships in a critique group are too unique and enjoyable to be severed by a simple change of address.

  4. I couldn't agree more. It's pretty special to be in a group where you can lay bare your soul and know you'll get honesty that won't hurt.

    Robin, you will be missed. But I'm so glad we'll continue to be cyber-buddies.

  5. We will miss you, Robin!

    I completely agree with your post. A good critique group is worth it's weight in gold!

    I love the image of our group as "dream nurturers". That is a perfect description of our group. (And exactly what I need right now!)