Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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October 31, 2011

Critique Groups: Prepare For Change

by Laura Drake

We’ve been talking about critique groups here at Writers in the Storm lately. Jenny started us out with 10 Power Tips for Critique Groups, and Sharla followed up with her post on how to form a Critique Group.

At crit group this week, we were talking about change; how it seems that everything goes along the same for a while, and then BAM! It all seems to change overnight.  Changes happen all the time in critique groups. Life intercedes, members move on, new members join, disagreements or personality conflicts may happen. People may become discouraged and stop writing, or move on to other passions.  Crit groups are constantly changing, in large and small ways.

And that can be scary. After all, a crit group (providing it’s a good one) is our biggest support group as writers – they’re people who actually getwhat we do!  Members become close personal friends, and the group develops a history, with favorite stories, just like family.

Changes can filter down, effecting or our ability to keep our writerly butts in the chair, and even the quality of the writing itself. I don’t know about you, but my writing looks very different (read: better) after traversing the crit group gauntlet.

Even if you see the change as positive, the gulf between where you are and where you want to go can look like shark infested waters. Group dynamics come into play - you have to take other’s wants/needs into account as well as your own. When the health and viability of the group may depend on these decisions, how do you reach consensus?

The group will morph and change – there’s no stopping it.

But you can prepare yourself. Laurie Maddalena put together some strategies for developing resiliency in dealing with change.

  1. Step away, take a breath, and take some time to think realistically about the impact of the change and the strategy for moving forward. We often get caught up in the change itself and cannot think clearly enough to develop a strategy.
  2. Adjust your mindset from viewing change as a problem to an opportunity.
  3. Think about the different perspectives you could have around the change. What perspective do you choose to be in?
  4. Keep sight of the long term vision, not what the change causes short term. How will your perspective be different a year from now?
  5. Be open to learning. If we resist change, our energy is wrapped up in the effort to maintain the status quo. Think, "What can I learn from this?"
  6. Change often causes stress. Ask yourself, "What can I control in this situation? What can I do to influence this situation? What do I have to accept about the situation?"
  7. Focus on the present moment. Don't think about what has happened in the past or what could happen in the future.
  8. Trust yourself. Developing an inner equilibrium is essential for being resilient in the midst of change. Trust that everything will work out.
  9. Improve your ability to respond to change. Stretch yourself in little ways every day. How will you respond to the terrible traffic? How will you react to trying something new?
  10. Be open to self-change. In every experience with change, be open to learning and changing yourself. Ask yourself, "How can I grow from this change?

How about you? Has your experience with change in your crit group been good? Not so good? Please share what you’ve learned with us.

~ Laura

I wouldn’t be the ‘quote Queen’ if I didn’t leave you with a few gems:

Change is inevitable - except from a vending machine.  ~Robert C. Gallagher

If you're in a bad situation, don't worry it'll change.  If you're in a good situation, don't worry it'll change.  ~John A. Simone, Sr.

There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse!  As I have often found in travelling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one's position, and be bruised in a new place.  ~Washington Irving

Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.  ~John Kenneth Galbraith

The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions.  ~Ellen Glasgow

Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations.  ~Faith Baldwin

If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies.  ~Author Unknown

We spend our time searching for security and hate it when we get it.  ~John Steinbeck, America and Americans

0 comments on “Critique Groups: Prepare For Change”

  1. Thanks Laura, this called out to me. Change? My experience with my first crit group went like this: I thought it was great and hung on every work. Began to see it wasn't so great and learned to filter some of what I heard. I became uneasy because I knew it was time for me to make a change and leave this group. I hesitated for eight months and during that time a woman joined who has become my most trusted reader, swim partner and all around life coach. Change can be frightening or exciting, it can make us feel depressed or elated ... it doesn't matter ... there is no way to avoid the natural order of the universe ... constant, major and minor change until the end 🙂

    1. Oh Florence, you bring up a good point - I had a similar experience - I dumped the group, but kept the great crit partner!

      You're also right - it's easier to jump into a crit group than to extract yourself from one that's not working for you. Hard to do gracefully. But don't let that stop you from trying again!

      I'm so grateful for my wonderful WITS women!

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