Yesterday, one of my coworkers was asked to make a sign that directed people outside for our Open House. He drew it on paper and was happily going to hang it on the wall for our event. Before this could happen though, I suggested that we try a different approach. I suggested a PowerPoint and using a large screen television that we have, connecting it with an HDMI cable to a laptop, and having this slide show direct people instead. My reasoning: it would look great and go with our agency's focus on using technology to solve problems.
My boss asked me, "How long would it take to set that up?"
I replied, "I can do it in ten minutes."
It actually took me around twenty to get everything set up, however I was happy with the result.
Well a little while later, I saw former co-worker on the floor in the hallway modifying my PowerPoint presentation. He basically said it wasn't satisfactory and felt the need to change it without even asking me if that would be okay.
I know this isn't a big deal, but this is the same guy that a little while before would have been happy to tape a scribbled piece of paper on the wall directing people outside. So yeah, he felt the need to "edit" my work. I have to say, I was a little miffed.
Conclusion: I don't like people telling me my work is unsatisfactory or "this could be improved" unless I'm soliciting for an opinion. Maybe I'm a tad bit arrogant? I don't know, but my feelings on this made me acutely aware that I may have some issues with insecurity.
Here is my point: I think that I've come to the conclusion that I will never be secure in myself as a person or as a writer. With regard to this last part, i.e., my writing, I thought I'd grown relatively secure based off of my reaction to reviews. One stars no longer made me feel like I was some species of sub-human wasting my time at a typewriter pounding away at keys to tell a story that no one wanted to read in the first place. But I think that I was just lying to myself. What changed my mind you might ask? Joining a writer's group here in Utah.
We meet once a month on the second Thursday. My friend, Charlotte Louise Dolan (she writes Regency romance and is a well-respected author in the genre) hosts the group at her home. I discovered that when it came for me to read from something I wrote, that it raised my blood pressure, made me hot under the collar, and made every error leap off the page. It's like I was suddenly made aware of how abominably long a single page of prose happens to be. The sentences appeared to stretch on forever. I remember thinking "how could one person write this much?" and then realized...oh yeah...it was easy.
If that's not a sign of insecurity, I don't know what is.
I don't know if a writer's group is for me, but I think I'm going to limit my exposure to reading stuff that I've written and putting it up for critique to about two pages per month. Everyone in the group is going to have an opinion, and I'm not sure if I like having all of those opinions resonating in my head. It's difficult for me to find my own voice again after hearing from other people how they think the story should go or how a character should act or whether an info dump needs to be cut, disseminated, or eliminated entirely. I hate info dumps too. About the only thing I know when I'm called out on my info dumps is that I need to do something about them. I guess my head is filled with big ideas, and I need to work on it or risk the dreaded "eye glaze."
Have any of you participated in writer groups? What do you do in order to get the most out of them without exposing too much of yourself to be cut open by sharp pens and eviscerating opinions? Or do you happily embrace flaws that people seem so ready to point out in something you've created?
As for me, I've said it once and I'll say it again. I don't particularly like people telling me my work is unsatisfactory and that's just the truth. But it seems to happen all the time. The fact that I've not gone postal may be all the validation that I need to realize I've the chops to be a real writer. I guess the proof will emerge in the years to come.
The Insecure Writers Support Group is a monthly blog fest started by Amazon best selling science-fiction author Alex J. Cavanaugh.