Many people have writing groups where they read and critique each other’s work. It’s definitely a challenge, though, to find a good critique match. You want critique partners who have similar experience and who write in the same genres. And are just as committed to writing and critiquing as you are.
My critique partners are separate from my writing group. I have a handful of friends I trust with early drafts of work and they trust me with theirs. We’ve been reading and critiquing each other for years, growing together as professional writers.
My writing group does something else. We write.
The idea for our writing group stemmed from a long-standing writing group in Seattle called the Louisa’s Writers. (named for both Louisa street and Louisa’s Cafe where the writing happens) Writers show up and write for 45 minutes to an hour, twice a week. I mean write by hand straight, no stopping, no reviewing the work, no crossing out, no editing of any kind. It’s from the gut.
Then the work is shared. No critique involved, although people will point something out later if it struck them as interesting.
When I showed up there last week, there were about 25 people writing. When we started, it went quiet but for the few other patrons. The energy emanating from the collective minds, hearts, guts, and fingers was palpable and the time actually flew by.
Our much smaller writing group (called Louisa’s North, even though it takes place at The Grind) meets every Sunday. We write for 20 minutes, share, write for 20 more, and share again. Same thing – recommended writing by hand, no stopping, reviewing, or editing of any kind.
Why this works: this is far different than writing by yourself into your computer for 20 or 40 minutes. Usually when you write like that you stop and think about your word choice, your plot, your intention, and editing is too convenient. This is riding the momentum of something else. Strange inspirations come when you write with such forward momentum. Directions are explored without attachment. This kind of writing opens you up.
And it doesn’t matter your level of skill or what experiment you’re working on that day. It’s a personal experience. An added bonus to me is the letting go of ego. You read your work raw with no preambles or apologies.
Jack Remick and Bob Ray began the Louisa’s group over 15 years ago. I used to attend back in the late 90’s. Between them they have dozens of books, but they still attend the writing group when they can. And why not?
WHAT THE HECK DO WE WRITE?
We work on whatever calls us to it. Could be a W.I.P. or something new. Jack and Bob used to make up start lines but discovered that whatever needs to be written will come though if everyone simply starts with the line:
Today I am writing about…
And off we go. The mess of the mind, heart, and gut shot through the pen. The rest of the world disappears. It could turn up lost memories, new insights, plot twists, four pages of dialogue, or a monologue from a goddess.
Sometimes I use the startlines I’ve come up with here on my Weekend Writing Workout if they pertain to what I’m working on. Wherever I start, though, something moves.
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LOOKING FOR OTHER WEEKEND WORKOUT BLOGGERS
Sometimes I can’t get to my weekend workout post due to other writing/life stuff. I’m looking for 4 or 5 other bloggers who’d like to post a Weekend Workout with me on Friday mornings (sending me their links by midnight the night before). That way, writers can jump around from workout to workout, get a whole week full of them, and we can post each other’s links if we don’t have time for an original post. Workouts may vary: poetry, fiction, memoir, etc. As long as it’s a writing exercise AND something you would try yourself.
Contact me at info (at) danikadinsmore (dot) com if you are interested. Please pass the idea on to anyone else you think might be a good candidate.
CLICK HERE for more information about my Weekend Workouts.
Lori Watt says
I love you!
Danika Dinsmore says
Jack Remick says
Danika: I’ve never read a more heart felt and vital piece about writing practice than this. Your words are an inspiration to me now. Thank you. And I do hope you pull a group to the high crest of the mythic wave that you describe here. As you know, any of your writing cohort who show up in Seattle are welcome at Louisa’s Bakery Cafe. The price of admission is a cuppa, the reward is cashing in on the energy of that group. Thanks so much.
Lovely post, Danika. I used to belong to a writing group called The Five Pages, named as such because we shared 5 pages of our work for critique. We fizzled out for various reasons, but I miss getting together with a group of people and jib-jabbing about writing.
You idea of a weekend workout sounds great, and it may be something I would be interested in. I’ll email you… 🙂