Monday, April 15, 2019

Critique and Going Further With Your Writing

The value of critique, as one of our writers noted on Saturday, is that it offers differing perspectives. While many offer up the same intelligent criticisms of a piece—this needs clarifying, this requires more detail or better writing—some see no need to change this or that. Others in the critique group do.

I suppose this is why creativity is an individual expression. The ultimate decision rests with the writer.

Critique leaves the writer with much to chew on and digest when it comes to revising the piece. It is up to her to pick and choose which comments best serve her purpose.

But, perhaps, the biggest challenge and benefit that comes out of a critique is when writers encourage another writer to dig deep; what Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones, calls “going further.”

“Even if you have pushed yourself and feel you’ve broken through, push yourself further…ride that wave as long as you can. Don’t stop in the middle,” Goldberg writes.

So many writers—myself included—can stop short. As Goldberg jokes, we all know the writer who proclaims,” And then I woke up!” as a way to end the story.

Whether you’re writing fiction or memoir, taking it further is both risk and reward.

How do we do go to the next level?

One way is to believe in your voice. Another is to have a strong understanding of what your story is about. Even silly entertaining novels like the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy had a strong theme and the author knew her intention and her audience. It is surprising, especially in memoir, that writers learn along the way that what they are writing is a fiasco. The original idea or intent bears no resemblance to what they learn later along the journey that the real pull of a story, the real reason they are writing, is to bear witness to something. This always comes as a surprise. I was not who I thought I was…It brings them plummeting down to earth. It required breaking out of habitual thinking and tackling a subject or a life event, or a person who deeply affected them, in a new light  and with new eyes.

We live in a weary world, too much is happening. It's easier not to threaten our "status quo" thinking. That's where curiosity kicks in and the writer begins experimenting with expression, voice, a unique way of telling her story and shedding the old preconceived notions of right and wrong, good and bad. 

If that quest, that curiosity, that willingness to break old patterns of thinking doesn't happen, the story meanders, peters out. Going further just became a threatening task, upending the "safety" of the person's habitual thinking.

Seeking out the deeper meaning that goes beyond ourselves and into the universal human journey is the creative writer's ultimate quest.

How else do we tap into our story and go further?

Relax and find a place to write that is perfect for you. Believe in yourself and your willingness to make a difference in the world with your writing. That takes courage, a leap of faith, right there.
As I sit here at the kitchen table, a gray and azure April morning sky frames the yellow and lime green forsythia and lawn. A shaft of brilliant sunshine breaks through the clouds. I feel on the brink of something new… a new story, a reflection, the next chapter in my life. And here I sit, writing away.

Of course, a writing group offers invaluable feedback on your work, as long as the feedback is honest. There is an accountability and intention to meeting with a group, setting a date to discuss your work. This is the work of our Women's Writing Circle.

How about you? How do you go about the task of "taking it one step further'?

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