Monday, 2 February 2009

Just not that into crit sessions

For the first time in ages, I attended my writing group's crit meeting yesterday. It's been ages, because a few years ago I decided that I would rather spend the time writing my own stuff than reading other people's. Selfish, yes, but over the years I have given an awful lot of my time to other writers and wasn't really reaping the benefits. So instead of spending hours in the lead-up to a crit meeting reading, thinking and writing comments about other people's words, I decided to give them the flick and focus on my own.

I must say that I haven't regretted it either. Especially since the inspired establishment of social brunches, where we don't do any critiquing -- or if we do, it's sporadic and at a general level. (And it's usually novels, so we can help brainstorm plot ideas or discuss aspects such as characterisation.)

Anyway, most of those who attend brunch do attend the crit sessions, so I've been wondering what they get up to. So I decided to attend one out of the blue, just for a change.

But of course I've totally forgotten how much time to leave for reading and critiquing, and we had such a shockingly hot week last week, and work was urgent and pressing, so I found myself reading stories the morning of the meeting. Not ideal. I debated not going, but I'd been making noises as though I was going, so I thought I'd make do with half-hearted crits and just GO.

And was reminded of why I stopped going in the first place.

Now that's going to sound awful. I had a lovely afternoon actually -- great company. But my crits were half-hearted and I felt shockingly guilty, and embarrassed at the quality of everyone else's comments compared with mine, and realised that if I'm to attend crit sessions then it DOES mean that a couple of hours per story need to be devoted beforehand.

And once again I came to the realisation that my time would have been much better spent at home writing my own stuff. I have so little time as it is, that to dedicate an entire day to something so peripheral, seems crazy.

Why then is it perfectly acceptable to spend all day in a cafe with the brunch crowd?

For me, workshopping/critiquing is an evil side-effect of being a writer. Although I don't dislike it for itself, I have always resented the time spent attending to it. Maybe it's because I'm just not that into short stories? Anyway, I have always valued the fellowship of other writers and was enduring critique sessions just so I could have that. Brunch has changed all that. I find our social meetings so much more rewarding, inspiring, beneficial than yesterday's crit session, where we barely had time to talk anyway.

So. There you have it. I've re-convinced myself. No more crit sessions for me. I'm sticking to brunch.


  1. I actually don't think it's selfish at all to want to spend your free time working on your own stuff. It might be different if you had oodles of free time in which to read and write and do whatever you want, but we both know that writing time is all too easily squeezed out, and when other people are writing heaps, it can leave you with no time to write. And, after all, you want to be a writer -- you're in the writing group as a writer, not a workshopper, so you do need to be protective of your own time.

    I was wondering how the day went and whether or not you went.

    (And I'm sure a half-hearted crit of yours is still a very good crit!)

  2. I'd like to think I had some useful points, but they were still half-hearted crits.

    As to whether it's selfish or not, I guess it depends on whether I expect people to read my material. Which is why I don't at all mind the brunch/novel workshops, because there I figure I'm getting feedback of my own and it all seems more worthwhile.