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The Cone of Isolation

A few weeks ago, I sat dejected and lonely, pecking away at my latest WIP (for the non-writer…’work-in-progress’) wondering if the creation under my thundering fingertips had worth. The cone of isolation descended upon my head and shoulders like a willow-the-wisp. *Totally not sure what a willow-the-wisp is* but I just looked it up and somewhere in my subconscious, I must’ve logged its meaning -‘ a light that always seems to recede and leads the unwary to their doom’. Yep. Pretty good description of what it feels like to sit at a laptop for hours, chasing the light, our emotions sinking into gloom and doom.

Our feelings lie to us sometimes. I know this. We all know this. But still. It isn’t fun chasing willow-the-wisp.

My local writers’ group popped up with an all-call for those interested in a critique group. A critique group is for people like me who sit hours at a laptop, biting their fingernails and swiping the sweat off their brow, hoping what they put down on pages is good. Writers are notoriously hard on themselves. Yes, it’s part of the job description to accept rejection and correction and editing but seriously… once in a while we need encouragement. An attaboy or attagirl. An awesome review. A request for an author talk. Whatever. Especially if we have two or three different WIPs going at the same time, like I stupidly do this year. Anyway, the point is there are millions of us.

Thus…I’d been longing for a critique group, people who share the cone of isolation in similar fashion, but I wasn’t sure where to start. I raced to the all-call meeting thinking, ‘what perfect timing!’ and when the topic was (finally) introduced, with nary the blink of an eye I thrust my hand in the air and declared my need for one. Right now.

Twenty-five people offered up blank stares. I thought, what have I done? Am I going to sink through the floor in humiliation? Had I overstepped the writerly rule of introversion at all costs?

It took the group a minute to gather themselves, I guess, after listening to someone declare their need instantly and transparently instead of muddling around. Maybe. Who knows. I don’t care. All I know is four, lovely, writers approached and said they’d love to, and others stood on the fringes wondering if they, too, could join. But it is best to keep a critique group small if it is to focus and comment on a significant portion of writing. Still. I didn’t know all that much about critique groups and here I was, starting one. Could I do it? What if they don’t like me? What if they don’t (horrors!) like my writing?

We talked about expectations and preferences and settled on exchanging three chapters – three weeks to read and comment via email, fourth week to have the comments to the author. I’ve gotten two passes of comments now, and oh, my! They liked my writing! Holy water sprinkled on my soul. Plus…the writers are from diverse backgrounds and write in different genres, so their perspectives are gold. Always and forever…there are things a writer cannot see about their own work. Early on we agreed to fold in lots of praise with the more pointed suggestions that often furrow our sweaty brows.

Collaboration always makes stuff better. Always. Our egos need to park their hurt feelings at the door. Other people see things that we cannot.

Let’s just say…I’m much more encouraged about writing than I was a couple of months ago. All thanks to this critique group, and my desperate need to rip off the cone of isolation. May it rest in jagged, thorny, pieces.


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