Reflections on a Writers’ Meeting
A stress-free chance to dissect and discuss.
I met with the Busan Writing Club tonight, forgetting all stress as the meeting began. There was no anxiety, no stress at all. Everyone who came was from a different writing background, some with degrees related to creative writing, some without. We were all readers and writiers, all committed to understand what we like to read and how that helps us write.
In tonight’s session, we took a published work, The Hard Years by Emma Pattee, and attempted to dissect it. I think we learned a lot from it – it’s a very well-told story of abuse, with a lot of powerful phrases and imagery. We also tried to come up with criticisms and possible improvements. It was hard – I think it always is hard to criticize a work that seems so far advanced compared to one’s own writing! However, it was certainly a worthwhile exercise.
My takeaway from this study is an appreciation for the art of story dissection – especially with stories that seem way out of my league. It is important that I try to avoid the impulse to shy away from stories like this – I can feel intimidated when I try to read something I know is a very good work and I can’t understand why and how I know that! Meeting with a writing club and doing this in person seems like the perfect way to overcome such intimidation. Shared insecurity, ironically enough, seems to lead to a strange kind of confidence – we all know this piece is far ahead of us, but we’re all here to deal with it together!
Another thing that was wonderful tonight was when I received feedback on a story I’m struggling with. I have a much better idea why I’m finding it difficult now. I was pensive at first, feeling as though I had to defend my work (‘It’s just a draft!’, ‘The names are placeholders!’), but there was no negativity at all as people expressed ways to build upon the draft and improve it. The talk also led to the nicest comment I’ve yet heard – one reader said “I wish I had written this – there’s so much potential for it.” That made my night!
Now I know that this piece has merit, and I have some directions I can set out upon as I rewrite. I also have some great ideas on how to dissect stories I read. Oh, and I got out and got all social, which is hard for a father of two. I hope the writers who read this have similar groups, and meet as regularly as possible!