Some times, you have to make a change. Some times it’s unexpected. Some times it’s necessary. Some times….it’s just time.
I have been in a critique group for about four or five years now. I take my work there to be critiqued by other members and I critique the work of other writers. I have a reputation. They call me “the Blade” for my penchant for absolutely slaughtering people’s writings. I try very hard to let it get personal. It’s “business” as they say in the Godfather films. I don’t candy coat my opinions. I’m quite upfront about what I think and I can be a little harsh. Patting writers on the back is for others. I happen to think I have a pretty good instinct for what works and what doesn’t and I am passionate about my view. If you are looking for approval, I’m not the guy you want.
(Warning: the next paragraph is a bit egotistical and self-serving, but I will give it to you straight with no frosting on top.)
My time with this particular group, however, is coming to an end. Not that I think I know it all…of course, I don’t. I do enjoy the camaraderie of the group and talking writing with would-be authors. Our group administrator, Jim, has always been cordial and helpful with advice and I’ve learned a few things I didn’t know before. The maddening problem is that I am a far better writer than than the rest of the group put together. They are simply not in my league–yes, I know it sounds awful, but it’s true. I understand concepts and forms that they simply cannot grasp. I critique their work–and the next time they bring something….it’s not any better. I have become a little tired of reading amateurish prose from people who don’t have the experience or, frankly, talent enough to grow from the opportunity of being in such a group.
Worse for me, they like everything I submit. They find my work interesting and readable and apart from minor quibbles over grammar, they can’t seem to find issues to challenge me with–I know they’re there. I recently took a chapter to someone else who dabbles in editing and she immediately pointed out a character flaw that no one in the group brought up…and she was quite right. So the question is whether my work is actually good…or whether the people critiquing it don’t know enough to do a proper job of it. Sadly, I am leaning towards the latter explanation. That last thing I took to be critiqued was, in my opinion, a terrible piece of garbage. They thought it was great!
So, after I finish my opening draft for “The Bureau of Lost Films,” I”ll be handing in my notice and looking for a new higher-level critique group that is willing to give as good as I give them. I think that’s the only way I can progress. Otherwise, I’m just wasting my time…and at 55, I don’t have any to waste.
Write on, brothers and sisters.