Lord, I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into. I started attending a critique group, and for the past few sessions, I’ve been perfectly content to read other writer’s work and give them what I hope is helpful feedback. But when the organizer emailed a call for submissions for next month’s meeting, I impulsively hit reply and said, “I’ll do it!” Do I have something for them to read? No.
A good friend wrote last week, “I have been reading a lot about writing recently. Specifically, I am curious about the writer’s process as I am developing one of my own.” As I attempt to come up with a piece worthy of my critique group’s time, I’ve thought a lot about her statement, reflecting on my own process. I set an alarm for 6am during the week, getting up to write while the rest of the house sleeps. But that’s not really a process, that’s just a schedule, right?
During times of deadlines, my process is one of avoidance. I have dozens of “big ideas” jotted down in Evernote, on post-its, on the lines of my navy blue Moleskine – five or six word phrases like “I am an unreliable narrator,” or “Notes under my pillow for God.” My phone is full of voice memos for those pieces. But when I think about sitting down and trying to put it all together? I procrastinate. I delay. I use my writing time to blurt out blog posts. Like right now.
A local friend and I trade critiques sometimes. We email our work to each other, then meet for lunch or coffee and trade feedback. Lesley’s advice is instrumental in my growth as a writer (as I hope mine is to hers), and thanks to one of her critiques, I tightened up a piece that was ultimately accepted. This past week, after reading the work I gave her, she told me, “I love your voice.” But the piece still needs a lot of work.
That’s where I get stuck as a writer. My voice comes through in my blurts, in my blog posts, in my “shitty first drafts,” as Anne Lamott calls them. When I start polishing, though, when I cobble together the voice memos, and the scattered notes, and rearrange and cut and organize, I don’t know how to keep my voice. The writing feels forced. “That’s why I loved Wild,” I told Lesley. “Strayed’s writing is raw, like when I blurt, yet it’s also refined. Somehow she keeps her voice through all the polishing.”
It’s a tricky transition, this progression from posts to pieces. From self-publishing on a blog to submitting for review by others. But reading about writing and setting an alarm clock, meeting deadlines for your critique group and maintaining your raw voice while refining your words, I guess those are all part of the process.
3 thoughts on “From Posts to “Pieces””
So many of us in the same boat aren’t there? I find the blog is a great way to make myself practise writing and I enjoy the feedback that I get from it. The sharing of my stockpile of writing with my mentor who just happens to be another Lesley is so good for me as it takes me right to the edge of the writers cliff and lets me take some safe risks. She has pointed out to me several helpful things such as the correct order of my ideas in a story or poem, some grammar slipups and also to have faith in my own storytelling. Good for you to be the brave one and let others critique your work. It can be rough to take sometimes but don’t let that get you down.
I love how you describe your Lesley as taking you to the edge of the writer’s cliff. I’ll have to remember that when I’m feeling lazy or doubtful. And yes, blogging is definitely crucial for writing practice for many of us. I don’t think I would be nearly as diligent without mine. I like that instant gratification of pressing “publish” and then saying, “Okay, what’s next?” My attention span is too short to keep with the big projects for long 😀
Aaaah! The curse of the Virgo! I know it well and suffer daily. It sounds like, if I remember your chart correctly, your writing happens in Aries. Your moon and ascendant help you to let go and create with no time for judgment or second guessing. To your Virgo sun, that might feel sloppy and unworthy of the reader’s time. It isn’t though. This is the part where I would love to have some piece of helpful information. The teacher me demands that I do or say something to help you. However, I have found that in my own process, the writing I enjoy the most is reactionary. Give me something to respond to, then I feel in control. When I simply sit down and decide to write…mental crickets…
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