We all do things we are not necessarily proud of. Things we end up regretting.
I am a part of several Facebook writing groups. A few weeks ago, a group member in one particular group posted about smaller writing groups more akin to book clubs. A group of writers, reading each other’s work, peer-to-peer reviews and critique, etc. A far more intimate setting than the thousands plus sprawling Facebook groups.
Naturally, I was intrigued. There were undeniable perks. Growing collectively as a group could open new doorways in terms of personal and professional growth. There would be socializing, bouncing ideas off of similar minds, pooling of industry-related resources and all kinds of other wonderful benefits. The friends I share my writing with are far and few between. The chance of having a group of peers that would be honest with their feedback and understand the part of me that is a writer without judging me seemed like a dream.
Granted that there would be drawbacks. How would you find the right people? How would you know they were right? What if you were too busy to give enough time to it? It is after all, a commitment. What if they didn’t like you? What if your crippling social awkwardness acted up and you made a right fool of yourself? The thought of embarrassing myself in, not just a group of people, but in a group of writers… The thought filled me with fear.
Which is why, when the poster explained that his writing group was looking for one more member, I was filled with both excitement and apprehension. With those feelings warring inside of me, I decided to fill out the questionnaire provided, anyway. Because, fuck it, what’s life without risks, right? As it happened, I started off swimmingly, filling out my name and writing related details with much gusto. As I did, I came to realize that my answers were laying me bare, here. I was writing in a genre thousands of people wrote, and more failed at than succeeded. I was a small town girl from a country that was, incredibly literally, a dot on the map. I was a closeted bisexual, supposedly muslim, amateur female writer from a place people knew for fish. I was no more remarkable than a tuna in one of the shoals the nets of the fishermen in my city reeled in every day.
I had published nothing.
I had also recently epically fucked up my life with bad decisions (who knew you could already ruin your life at just 18?)
I wasn’t cut out for this.
I didn’t have what it took to be a writer.
I had neither the drive, the spark nor the fuel.
I’d run dry.
As my confidence dawdled, so did my filling out of the form. I filled in things along the lines of not knowing my word count so far and instead listed my last nano count from the past November, I’m sorry – I didn’t have an excerpt of my writing that I was ready for anyone to read, I had never published anything, etc. The icing on the cake was probably my mortifyingly long intro (the longest!) where I also provided the little tidbit that maybe, it would be better if you did not pick me? Pick another, more seasoned, writer perhaps? A published author. Someone with something to actually bring to the table.
Even as I typed that intro out and filled in the other boxes, I had a sinking feeling inside of me. I was so bad at this. They would never pick me after this. It felt like I was doing it on purpose. Was I purposely setting myself up to lose? This was a question I asked myself again, later.
The OP thanked everyone for their responses and informed us that they had received far more responses than they had expected and that for the people who were not picked, they planned to do a little matchmaking to form more writer’s groups, similar to their own and asked people who were interested in participating to get back to them. Now, this was the moment I should have said no. I’d already embarrassed myself, and then some.
Instead, I said yes.
Isn’t that little adrenaline rush satisfying? Next time I’ll just go on a roller coaster, I swear.
I said that I would participate. That in itself was a commitment. We were duly informed that the way it would be done was that all the participating writers would be given numbers, to guard our identities.
It’s important to note that one side of me really wanted this. A lot. Having a small writing to group to get honest feedback from would be awesome I thought. Like-minded friends who shared the same need to write.
I was quaking at this point. It was giving me full-on anxiety. Many times I considered withdrawing – it would take just a simple email, it would be so easy. But that would feel like surrender. So, I fought back my demons and dutifully sent in a late writing excerpt entry which was sent out to all the other participants by the OP.
A while later we received an e-mail informing us that the time to send in the numbers of our preferred matches was over. A follow-up email contained St. Patrick’s Day wishes and details on how to set up the group, including how to use Discord to communicate with each other and how their group organized submissions on a google spreadsheet with links to their google doc submissions.
After that an email was sent out informing us of our matches. I was matched with three other people. Except for two of them we’d all been matched which each other, hence myself and another member received two emails, introducing us with the unmatched two. We joined a Discord server created by one of the other members and followed the loose rubric for writing groups provided by the OP and made our own spreadsheet, etc.
I’m glad that I did not withdraw. While I’ve yet to get to know them very well, we did introduce ourselves and all three of them seem like nice people. We all have a common goal of improving our writing and one day being published authors. If anyone is reading this, I would definitely recommend forming a writing group or partnership. Having someone(s) you can trust critique your work without judging you can help you improve your writing and they can improve theirs the same way. As writers, sometimes we can get a little lost and distance ourselves from the people around us. Having writing-related interactions with people forces a certain degree of socialization into your life and keeps you grounded with reality.
In retrospect, I don’t regret it after all. I’ve gained a writing group out of this. I chose not to withdraw. I chose adventure over fear. I consider this a small victory against my inner demons.