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A Woman Walked into a Writer's Group

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

A woman walked into a writers group

Looking for affirmation, looking for the members to tell her how good her writing was.

And she didn’t get that affirmation, those accolades, that praise.

And she was mad.

This happened in my group lately. What did we do wrong? Anything? I am still trying to figure it out.

I have to conclude that people may come to a writers' group for reasons that might not be what a writers' group, any writers' group, can provide.

People have pain. This woman had a lot of it. I say that kindly. She wrote about it, in detail.

The thing is, she didn’t need a writers group. We were not qualified to address her concerns that came out in the writing.

But that pain and those concerns did not make her writing good. The writing was unfocused, unedited in any way, and really, incoherent. It was a mix of mysticism, fundamentalist prophecy, Jung and psychotherapy, feminism, and her life story of abuse. And there were some kernels of a good memoir in it.

And when we offered critiques, honest ones, she lashed out. Rather vitriolically. I was accused of something rather heinous, which was therefore hurtful to me (I got over it in ten seconds, though). She spread her hurt to others.

In retrospect, I could have written something different. I may have been too specific in my critique. As were the other members, but we didn't treat her any different from others or how we had been treated.

So, what's a writers' group to do in such a situation? Probably lay out all the culture and expectations of the group before the person is allowed to visit. In our case, if a person wants to be critiqued that week, they have to critique all the other submissions that week. Also, require them to attend a meeting and get a sense of what kind of writing the members submit.

Still, everyone who thinks they have a wonderful idea for a book and think they can produce one...might be wrong.

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This is always tough. I am lucky to have an incredible support system in my current critique group that is not only open to necessary criticism but is also tough enough to give it. You can always find praise and accolade from family and friends that just want to see you happy but it takes a special person to be able to critique your work as a means to help you improve it. I tend to hurt feelings a lot but I would rather be honest than to encourage someone to print something that is going to bomb.

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