According to Chinese Astrology I am a Dog. A Yellow Dog.
My friend Kimmelin reminded me of this after I told her that after months of vacillating I had decided to take a break from my critique group.
You’re probably assuming that as a Yellow Dog I am loyal and faithful. Protective. Unconditional in my love and devotion. This is all reasonably true. I guess I am like a dog – stopping just short of greeting friends with a sniff of their backsides and working hard to restrain my joy when someone mentions “walksies”.
So it was difficult – saying ‘goodbye’ to a group of individuals that had offered their own unconditional support for my work. Of course, it’s only a break. Not a break-up. My plan is to rejoin the group in September if they’ll have me. But a lot can happen in one summer.
The thing is – I gots me some thinking to do.
And one of the things on my mind is the sense of urgency some of us feel to be a part of a group. Yes, writing is a solitary activity that can make the need to be part of something larger important if the loneliness is overwhelming. And groups give us an opportunity to send our work out into the world – even if the world is limited to eight people sitting around a dining room table.
I guess what happened to me was I was beginning to find the experience confusing. I no longer knew how to respond to comments about my work. I didn’t know whom to believe. Filtering the good from the bad was becoming impossible. I began to doubt my own instincts.
At the same time, after the excitement of the San Francisco Writer’s Conference and the surge of motivation that comes with being temporarily a part of a really, really large group all holding on to the same dream, I felt the need to find an agent. To send out my manuscript. To be published. Now. Right now.
It doesn’t work like that.
And so, for the past few weeks I’ve returned to basics. Reading and writing. Learning the craft. Discovering, as a reader, what I like. Figuring out what I don’t. Taking myself seriously as a writer. Finding a mentor.
I’ve heard it said that if you want to improve your tennis game, you find a partner who’s better than you. The same applies to writing. And recently the universe opened a few doors for me in that direction.
A critique group of peers is a wonderful thing and provides companionship, insight, a new way at looking at your words. But sometimes we need to be taken under someone’s wing. Sometimes that’s the only way we can learn to fly.