Thursday, September 22, 2011

Say Something Nice

My last blog post referenced the last writers' group meeting, where we talked about craft.  One of the things we decided would be useful and inspiring was that we'd talk about "the plum on your back."

If you've read the Fruits Basket manga or seen the anime, you know that, at one point, Tohru, the main character, notes that people are like onigiri, which are Japanese rice balls.  The tastiest part is on the back, and it's usually a pickled plum.  The rice ball sees itself as just plain, sticky rice.  But everyone else sees the plum, and envies the rice ball, never realizing they have a pretty, tasty pickled plum of their very own.

It's a convoluted metaphor to say that, when we angst about all of our flaws and the necessary rewrites and everything that's wrong with what we're doing, we miss our strengths.  We forget to factor in those things we're good at, because we don't need to pay attention to them.  But those strengths are why we started writing in the first place, in many cases.

What happened during the meeting was interesting.  A lot of us nodded knowingly at some of our compliments.  Most of us, though, had a moment of, "Really?"  Our eyebrows shot up, and we looked at our fellow writers with incredulity.  People really saw that in what we'd presented?  They'd noticed how hard we'd been working on that?  We were improving in these areas?

More than one person remarked that, after all the head-swelling, they felt inspired to write.  We'd temporarily trammeled the inner editor, that vicious beast who can slow word count to a trickle.  They felt confident, and like they'd chosen the correct path.

Such moments are precisely why I need a writing group in the first place.  I can't live in my own head all the time, wallowing in negativity and self-doubt.  I need other people to ground me, to remind me that I do this for a reason.  It was an excellent meeting.

Just because I like to keep it in mind, and because I like sharing, here are the things my writing group said I was good at, again:  my world-building is excellent, I have well-developed and fleshed-out characters, and I manage to convey a lot in a few words.  They immensely enjoyed these things about the short story I submitted for critique last month, and subsequently submitted for a writing contest this month.  They also contradicted my own assessment of my description, which I think is too sparse and literal, and it's hard for me to write.  But, apparently I'm doing a good job keeping my stories out of blank white rooms with faceless automatons.

I probably haven't read anything you've written, so, sadly, I won't be able to compliment you below.  But, if you want to comment with the best compliments you've gotten about your writing, I'd love to hear it.  What critique comments have you been proudest to receive?

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