I’m a writer (not that I’ve ever confirmed it out loud). I loved to write as a child and as a teenager, and during my public school education I had plenty of experience in writing courses with teacher feedback. However, my last course was about 10 years ago.
Long overdue, I joined an adult writing class last fall. It was the first time I sat down with a group of other adult writers to create something entirely new for me. Fiction – fantasy fiction.
While I love reading the genre – where an entire world is created for the reader – I never actually wrote that kind of thing before. But, it was burning in my brain, and I could not get the world out of my head.
So, along with the group around me, I wrote a bit about this new place inside my imagination. Upon completion of the pages, the rules stated we had to critique each person and provide constructive feedback. Everyone. As in, they would actually read my work. It was the whole point of the class. Each writer received one day to have his or her work discussed.
Terrified, I begged my beautiful friend Jessica that had
dragged me to informed me of this class in the first place, to review at my work before I dropped it into the lion’s den with our ten other author friends. She agreed.
“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” -Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing
Later that week, after I handed my precious papers in my sweaty hands to my friend, I realized it was one of the top most vulnerable times in my life. I had to
sit pace around in the other room while she read it, and covered my face when she came out to give me her feedback. These were MY words and My world – what if she hated it?
I picked the perfect friend for the task; however, as a best friend and a fellow writer she made the process almost enjoyable (she made the constructive criticism Oreo/sandwich and everything – positive, constructive, positive). If she did hate it, she did a wonderful job at hiding it.
All amazing and desperately needed feedback – the good and the bad. It helped me see where I could improve, and validated the parts I thought *might* be entertaining for the reader.
Because I shared my work before the class, it took the sting out of the moment and made me so much stronger. I knew I had something non-offensive to submit to them. Their feedback was much-needed too – confirmation of good parts, and great ideas to continue to improve the work.
The best part was, I had a whole group of people talking about this world that had up until that moment only existed in my head. It was so much fun to discuss the world with people who were genuinely interested in making it a really beautiful and magical place.
This also gave me the opportunity to understand how it read through their eyes. Parts I didn’t realize were not clear I tightened up; the feedback was invaluable.
The instructor made everyone read their pages in front of the class, too. Even though they already read the work, I still could feel my voice shake a bit as I vocalized the words that up until that time had only existed in my brain.
It was magical and terrifying at the same time to hear them aloud. I gave life to these characters that had never before lived.
All in all, it was the best thing I’ve ever done for my writing. My little writers group continues to this day, emailing work to be considered back and forth, despite life changes and moving cities.
I recommend all writers try a writing group just once or at least share their work with a writer friend. Not for the feedback, good or bad, but for the group dynamic. To listen to other people that understand the world, and to share the world you’ve created with others.
“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” -Criss Jami
Vulnerability often leads to inspiration, and that my friends, is worth it. What will you share with others today?