Today is a special day. It is one year since the day I first shared my story in the Cy-Fair Writers’ Meetup. I remember entering the room hesitantly but also feeling a sense of eagerness to share my work for the first time. It was a case of happy serendipity that I saw this meetup on the bulletin board of library events.
Barbara was the first person I met. She was warm and welcoming. I am happy to say that we continue to encourage each other’s creativity. The key takeaway from my first meeting with Barbara was that when you enter a new place and are feeling timid or hesitant about sharing your work (as many fledgling authors are), a warm and welcoming individual can make all the difference and help you feel like you made the right decision. I try to do that for new writers who arrive now, as a manner of “paying it forward.”
Writers’ pieces were read in the order of arrival. I had arrived early in order to go first and get the spotlight off me because I am shy! But I wanted to share my work.
Audrey was sitting across from me. I asked her if she would do the honors of reading aloud. My entry was a YA piece and her tone and manner fit the bill perfectly. When we went around the table, people were respectful and dispensed positive feedback first, which made me feel good. I was also more open and receptive to their constructive criticism as a result. Martha, who is my good friend now, suggested that for one sentence, I need not list all the different types of genre. My initial reaction was, “Oh no! I can’t take those words out! They are so dear to my heart.” But when I got home and was in front of my computer, I thought, “Well, maybe I can give her suggestion a try. I mean, I can always put the words back.” When I attempted her recommendation, I was surprised to discover that “it sounds better this way.” This experience has had a lasting impact on the way I edit my prose and review the prose of others.
I still have the original copies with written feedback from my first and subsequent meetings. It is a good reminder of the creative process to review those early attempts and witness how far my work and I have come.
When I read the guidelines for Cy-Fair Writers – 7 pages, double-spaced, with line numbering. Bring copies for everybody so that you can get their feedback in writing – I was intrigued and considered sharing my work, just to see how people reacted. One item in the description that was especially helpful was the following:
HELPFUL TIP: To do line numbering in Microsoft Word, go to Format > Document > Layout > Line Numbers. Click “Add line numbering” and “Continuous”.
It may sound like a trivial item but the clearly laid out instructions resonated with the Software Quality Professional part of me! I have written many a defect report with similar instructions. Developers like it when issues are clearly explained, minimizing the need for back-and-forth clarification.
Fledgling authors and artists will actively look for reasons (even minor ones) to avoid sharing their work. In this case, if I hadn’t been able to figure out the line numbering in the space of a few minutes (and then proceeded to worry about whether this was, in fact, what the group was expecting), I might have succumbed to stage fright and skipped the meeting. I would have missed out on several positive outcomes as a result:
- I’ve developed close friendships with three attendees from the first meeting
- Through these friendships, I’ve nurtured the inner strength to continue writing, even in the face of abrasive criticism
- I’ve attended a second writers’ meetup and discovered friends with whom I now exchange letters
One of these pen pals is a former French teacher and our correspondence has helped me keep the French portion of my Canadian education and upbringing alive
- I’ve founded my own Writers’ Group
- I release a weekly podcast
- I feel happier and more fulfilled. My work now brings me joy.