Monday, April 20, 2009

Peer feedback reviews

...in the form of Submit! (my writing group). I have been given the duct-tape to fix the broken story. I have also been given a great deal of homemade pizza, chewy brownies and berry pie. I proceeded to burn it all off in nervous tension while I read the conclusion to the broken story: twisting my hair, swinging my foot, drawing little triangles on the table with my fingertip and chewing the skin off my lower lip.

This tension comes from the distance between this story and a thing which really happened: a distance apparently not enough to allow me to read it with complete equanimity.

Other stories, I've been able to read to the group without flinching, because those stories were less new and because I knew they were good. This one was still wet, and not good yet, and it felt quite a bit like something private and nasty: a dental examination, perhaps, or the scrutiny of a hostile lover. This despite the fact that my group consists of the most mature, supportive, talented people for whom I could possibly wish.

Hah... my problem is that they're all rather too good for me, I suspect. Established and intelligent people who manage to write brilliant things while raising children and conducting admirable careers. While I, held together with safety-pins, imperfectly powdered, and not quite sober, attempt to distract them with pyrotechnics as I discover too late that my fly is undone.

2 comments:

cj said...

It sounds like Doubt has followed you into your writing circle but at least you're still taking chances.

So would you suggest others try writing groups? Is it proving beneficial to you apart from what sounds like the supplication of good food?

clairification said...

Very much so. For one thing, all of the other members admit to feeling the same kind of doubt that I feel, (even though I find it hard to imagine, given their other accomplishments). This helps.

The main thing, though, is the collective agreement to critique each other's work. Our group currently consists of three active writers plus our spouses, plus a few other people who have come as guests. The variety of viewpoints is very helpful--getting a consensus on how something reads to others is invaluable.

Most helpful of all is the feedback from the other writers, who can not only tell me how something reads to them, but how it might be approached differently.

I also find it helpful to hear others' work in progress. Sometimes our problems are similar and sometimes they come up with issues that aren't at all what I face. Either way, almost everything I learn can be applied to my own work.

I highly recommend it if you can come up with a group who are at a similar level of talent and experience, respect each other's work, and take the enterprise seriously.