No Critique for me, thanks.

My local library recently started a writers’ workshop that meets once a month. When I first heard of it, I was excited, and I attended the first two meetings.

I’m not going back, and the reason is that I don’t like critique groups, and that’s where this group is headed.

Don’t get me wrong, having someone critique a piece of your writing can be valuable. In my earlier writing years, I may have asked others to read my work. An important point to consider here is that I searched out those who were established, qualified writers or editors in the same genre or area of interest as I; people who could be objective and honest, even if I wouldn’t want to hear what they said. I trusted them.

It’s easy to tell someone how good something is if that is what you honestly believe. It’s not so easy to tell someone their subject is boring: their spelling is atrocious; you don’t like their style; or that they should just go back to English 101 and start over.

I have critiqued the work of others, but I don’t like doing it because each individual has his or her own special style of writing, and it’s not like mine. The only way to find out if a piece of writing is good enough for publication is to refine it as best you can and send it to the people who matter — editors and agents who can champion your work.

Not everyone likes what I write, or the way I write. I don’t like every writer I’ve read, and that applies to some well-known authors that others rave about. Sometimes I’ll start a book by a best-selling author only to find out that I really don’t like the way he/she puts words together, or I don’t like the subject or the way its handled. Would I critique it and say it’s not worth reading? Of course not, because I’m only one reader, and what do I know?

To those who want to be in a writers’ group, don’t make it only about reading each other’s work and commenting on it. Real value in these groups comes from sharing tips on writing that others can use; learning how to write query letters; understanding how to move a story along; learning how to research the market and find the right publisher; sharing relevant information on publishing; bringing in guest speakers who have some expertise with writing; generally supporting and encouraging fellow writers; and above all, learning to use the research resources of your library.

Special note: never ask your best friend, loving spouse, or anyone who is really close to you, “What do you think of my story?” Trust me on this one.

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There is a Computer God

I could be the poster child for the “computerly challenged.” Just made up a new word there, but it best describes what I am talking about.

I know there are others out there in www-land who understand that. A month ago, if you had asked me about my URI or about the widgets I use on my blog site, my reaction would have been “Huhhh?”

I still couldn’t precisely define those terms, but I have learned a lot in the last few days. It all began when I tried to change the email address associated with this blog. I thought I had, until I suddenly couldn’t get into the administrative section to be able to add, edit, or post. And what I ended up with was a duplicate page asking me where I wanted to start.

Wait! What? Start what? I already have a blog, but where is it? For two days my blog was in some sort of purgatory, waiting for me to pray it out of there or come rescue it, which, as you can see, I did, but not without the risk of damage to my sanity.

So what happened, you may well ask. For starters, I thought I had changed my email associated with the site and thought up a new password. And then I removed the original email account. Apparently that didn’t work because every time I tried to sign in with the new email, the program refused to recognize me.

Things get a little muddled here, because I went through a whole round of helpful (or not) exercises with the support team that got me nowhere. Lest I give the wrong impression, those who responded to my cry for help tried their best before sending me on to one of the experts, who walked me through yet another series of steps. There is a Computer God because I finally recovered the original email and using the last password I could remember, “A Writers’ Consortium” popped up. Happy me.

What does this have to do with the writing life? Seems like everything, especially in this day of instant communication where we have so many resources that let us put our work out there for the world to see. It’s another lesson in adjusting and adapting to the way things are done, and every day is a learning opportunity.

What did I learn? Mainly that I always need to do my research before flying off in a different or unfamiliar direction. Had I gone through more of the tutorials with wordpress.com, or asked some questions in the on-line forum, I might have avoided all the stress. It’s the same with writing. Do the research. Check the facts. Then check them again. It’s all about getting it right.

And, oh yes, develop a system for remembering passwords.