Weekly Musing: Take a Deep Breath and Stay Calm

It took me a few months to find a writers group in my new home and so far, I’m enjoying them. But it’s been a long time since I’ve submitted a story to a physical group of writers. I feel right at home with them and have been impressed with the level of writing and feedback the group provides. This is good and bad. Good because it means I’m surrounded by people who take writing seriously. There’s also an amazing attention to detail and they provide excellent constructive criticism. What makes it bad are all of these reasons. I feel more pressure to submit an exceptional draft and because I wonder if I’ve been able to practice what I preach when I critique.

The plunge, though, must be taken. Having recently completed a rough draft of a story I am submitting for possible publication, I decided it was time to throw my name into the hat for critique. Our group actually chooses names out of hat for who goes at the next meeting. On my first attempt, my name was drawn. Hooray?

While I’m used to having people comment on my work, there is still that nugget of dread hanging over me until next Saturday’s meeting. I’m nervous enough as it is about the piece because I’m playing in someone else’s world (it’s for a shared world anthology) and because it’s in the sci-fi genre. While my writers group is very diverse, a good portion of the group really knows their sci-fi. This draft is also a bit rawer then I would normally submit to a group for a first time. For example, the first piece I submitted to my previous writers group was a story I had written for a creative writing class so it was fairly polished when submitted.

But for all the fears and anxieties I have, I know I share those with every writer and author out there. Even the greats still express fears and doubts. I struggle to recall the author’s name but he noted in an interview spending a couple of years reading about John Steinbeck’s life. Much of that research involved reading Steinbeck’s letters to his editor and even after his success he expressed fears about if he was still good enough.

The best way for me to deal with the feedback is to just let it sit for at least a week after the meeting. Then, when I’m feeling brave and am in a good mood, I’ll look over notes taken during the meeting as well as electronic copies of feedback. From previous practice, I’ve learned to comb through and choose what speaks most to me whether good or bad. It is ultimately my story yet to go in with any kind of ego about ‘I know best’ is detrimental. After all, it is important to never stop learning and growing. Even the greats and bestsellers still worry.