Love your writers' group
There is no ‘one size fits all’ rule on how to be a writer: everyone develops in their own way. For me, what helped me most was daily practice and joining a writers’ group.
I won’t say the latter wasn’t a bit terrifying. To share my writing with strangers who also write? In the darkness of creative chaos, your own work looks much different than when it’s held to light. Under the scrutiny of others, it might dissolve like a soap bubble.
So, yes, it’s fair to say that I was quite nervous about reading my work and getting feedback. Especially after hearing Brussels Writers’ Circle members’ critiques on a few pieces written by others. They could isolate an issue with microscopic precision, pinpoint the exact spot of intervention and offer alternatives to solve it. And me? At that point, I didn’t even know how to read in a group.
I don’t know what convinced me to share a short story. I was half-expecting it to be ripped apart. What I didn’t expect is that they’d like it. I got quite a few very interesting questions about the story that made me think more like a reader than a writer and many good, critical suggestions to make it better. They liked it! I got lots of encouraging words and came back light on my feet and convinced, more than ever, that I was going to make it the best story possible.
Soon, I became one of the regulars, twice a week at La Maison des Crêpes, to meet with others, read and give feedback. In about a year, I learned more than I could ever have learned on my own. Other people’s comments taught me how to read, how to pay attention. They also taught me how complex writing is and how much work it takes to make it really good. I persisted and not without results.
My short story, ‘The Recipe’, improved with the feedback of BWC members, was recently long-listed in the Fish Publishing 2918/19 contest .
The writers’ group gave me confidence and knowledge. I didn’t want to lose it all once I moved to Brazil. There didn’t seem to be any English-speaking writer’s groups in São Paulo, so I opened one. We meet twice a month, over mojitos, to read, critique and talk about our work. Eight months in, people say the group made a difference for them. I’m happy to be a part of it.