Groups and rules and writing

Interesting article from jordansummers1 on when it’s time to leave a group. (Link by way of miladyinsanity.)

One of the wonderful things about the writing world is that there’s tons of support for beginning writers, if you only reach out and look for it. But jordansummers1 is right that there’s a point where all that well-intentioned advice becomes restrictive. These days, I find myself bristling every time a writer says, “Well, so-and-so says you have to do this” or “Such-and-such says you should never do that.” Beyond the basics, rules become restrictive. There’s no one set of intermediate or advanced rules that applies to all writers. We each have to find our own way.

Yet I realized recently that maybe I’m forgetting how important that early support is, too. I recently told some fellow writers that I find RWA’s “pro” designation silly. “Pro” status, in RWA terms, doesn’t mean you’ve published; it means simply that you’ve gotten your act together and dropped something in the mail. But I realized I was being a little bit hurtful, because the writers I was talking to valued their “pro” status. I realized, too, that the support of having some colleagues applaud when they learn you’ve sent your first story out is one of those small things that can help a writer keep going. It’s hard enough to keep doing this; we all need all the support we can find. After I thought about it, I felt kind of badly about insulting someone else’s means of support just because it wasn’t mine.

What I think happens, though, is that as as one’s writerly focuses and needs become more and more individual–as one find’s one’s voice and stories–all those smaller things become more individual, too. This may be one reason folks come to rely more and more on smaller writers groups and other informal gatherings; smaller groups can adapt to meet the needs of each member, while larger groups are more likely to focus on the needs that cover the greatest number of members. Larger groups need overarching rules just to run effectively; otherwise things fall apart.

I find myself getting really picky, each workshop I look at, each conference I think of attending. Will this one really give me something I need? It’s not anyone’s issue but mine if it doesn’t. Over time, what one needs and doesn’t need simply becomes more and more specific; that’s how things work–for writing, maybe for most fields.

The main thing to remember may be simply not to dismiss others’ rules and strategies simply because they aren’t one’s own. And maybe, too, not to lose faith in one’s own strategies because they’re not anyone else’s.

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