Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Getting the support you need for writing

Writing is a solitary business. It's pretty much you and pen and paper, or you and computer. Most of us need to create a bubble or cocoon where it's just we and our minds (both right and left brains) and an occasional visit from the muse, if she's willing. We tune out voices other than our own (and those of our characters) even when we have music playing or are in a cafe or a library. We work by ourselves.

Because of the solitary nature of the medium, it's important to find support both for our writing and for us as writers. We may take workshops or classes to improve our skills or learn more about a genre, but we're also looking for both listeners for our work and supporters for our choice to do this. We need to hear the words out loud ourselves, but we also need to see the reaction to those words on the faces of our listeners, and in their feedback if we solicit it.

Some people need critique groups, where peers read their writing in advance and come prepared to give very detailed response to not only plot but character development, description, and word choice. Others favor a support group, which encourages but doesn't edit. I belong to a monthly support group, and I lead several others. In all cases, the reader can request no feedback or specific feedback. Usually, we focus on two questions: What did you want to hear more about? and Where did you get confused or lost? Neither question leads to word or sentence level critiquing; both help the writer move the story along.

It's also great to participate in local readings, open-mike nights, and to host readings of new material in your home at a potluck supper or dessert gathering. Our non-writer friends and family may not know how to support our need and ambition for writing, but other writers and readers can be a huge help.

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