Writing in a Vacuum

Friday I participated in an educators’ workshop hosted by a center at which I interned during my college years. While the topics and presentations given were familiar to me, seeing them again after so many years helped me to recognize teaching techniques missing from my own lesson plans and has inspired me to dig deeper into topics I would like to add to my class repertoire.  I now plan to revamp my educator’s teaching guide for my current workplace for a second time.

Participating in this workshop reminded me that most people fail to do their best work when creating in a vacuum. Feedback helps us to hone our communication skills, and observing others’ efforts can inspire new thoughts on how to go about our own works. I lost my writing group when I graduated college, and during the following years, I have not found an adequate replacement for that group. Growing my writing capabilities has been difficult due to this loss. Reading helps to fill in that observational part of working with other creative minds, but the little feedback I’ve gleaned over the years has been non-existent at the best of times and contradictory at its worst. No one can please every reader, but opposing viewpoints frustrate attempts to improve my writing.

Despite my lack of feedback, I am determined to query and/or pitch one of my projects soon. I have spent several years working on it, repeatedly shelving the manuscript and coming back to it a year or two later for editing. It is my hope that the time I have spent reading others’ works in between rounds of edits and rewrites will be enough observation to provide similar improvements as what I would have accomplished with feedback. If things pan out for this project, however, I would not recommend this method of project review; it has taken me nearly ten years to hammer out this story after completing the first draft as a NaNoWriMo project.

I would like to find a new writing group to replace the one I lost, but I always fear other writers will not take me seriously. The only work I have published was an unpaid piece in a county news and tourism magazine relating back to the internship I mentioned at the start of this post. Despite this lack of what I consider respectable publication (and it barely holds that ranking in my mind!), I have stayed busy in the realms of writing. Part of my position as an educator includes developing and producing informative handouts and articles for the public regarding my workplace’s services and programs. I also edit and assemble our annual report and proofread articles and information for our website written by other members of our staff. It’s far from being noteworthy publication, but at least it’s professional and read by the public. However, there is no creativity put into it aside from formatting and layout. It’s about as far removed from novel-writing as you can get and has nothing to do with storytelling. Perhaps I will find a new writing group someday, but until then, my workplace will provide my primary feedback on skill and reading my primary observation of craft.


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