Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Critique Groups...When to Say Good-Bye

I'm free!

I just quit my critique group and I feel so free and alive and able to write and think and be creative again! I started feeling smothered about 6 months ago, but I trekked on, thinking I'd be a quitter if I left. Other people love critique groups, so I should stay, right? I'm learning a lot about good and bad writing, enjoying getting together with other writers, so I should stay, right?

But after the last round of critiques, I knew I had to cut the rope. I no longer heard my characters in my head. I couldn't think of one new story idea, when before I'd usually come up with one or two a day, just out of no where. My creativity was dying. For the past 3 months, I haven't been able to think of anything. No new ideas, no new characters, nothing!

So I decided to just do it. FOR ME. I knew it was the right thing for ME to do and for MY writing. I just felt like my writing style and voice were being distracted, changed... Although I learned how to edit thoroughly and how to just get to the point, say what I wanted to say in my writing, I no longer heard/felt my writing. I knew I'd miss the writing friendships I made, but I also knew it was time to move on.

Do I regret quitting?

The moment I drove away from my final meeting, a new story idea popped into my head. And I felt I could breathe again, write for myself again. I felt free.

I don't want to step on anyone's toes, of course. I know some people live by their critique groups. And I applaud every writer for doing for themselves and for their writing what works for them. I do. I did learn some great lessons while in the group - what good and bad writing looks like and how to read for the craft better. 

But I also had to do for myself what works for me. I need to only hear my own voice in my head (and that of my characters). Otherwise I can't do it. I can't take my story where I want it to go. 

Every writer is different. And everyone writes differently.

Taking my time, waiting my turn to be critiqued, waiting to edit based on others input... it all started to feel like 'a hobby', casually going through the motions, taking my sweet ol'time... Personally, I know I'll never get anything done that way. 

I can't go slow. 

That isn't my speed. And I found that when I went slow everything stopped. Internally, externally. I couldn't write anymore. The way I finished my first draft was to write, every day, like a job, taking no breaks, no turns, no excuses.

Yet, every path is part of the process. I tried it out, liked it for a while, then found it wasn't working for me anymore. So, even though I walked away, said good-bye, I know I'm not a quitter. I chose to take charge and get back to treating my writing like a career. To get back to writing for me. Writing every day. Write, write, write.

So, time to get back to work. No more hiatus.