Imitative behavior. Critique group members can model so many instructive behaviors, including writing, feedback, research, networking and marketing skills. I absorbed a great deal from their examples.
Cohesiveness. Humans have a strong, innate need to belong and we thrive in groups where we feel accepted and validated. I enjoyed being part of NPW so much that, after finishing Shrink Rapt, I immediately started my next novel so I would have something new to read in group. I knew my fellow writers cared about me and my work, and the feeling was mutual. New members would attend and be amazed at how constructive and supportive we were with each other. I know I can still turn to them for feedback and support online, but will miss the camaraderie that comes with meeting in person.
Existential factors. As writers, we are inevitably wrestling with our own narratives and trying to make meaning out of them, whether through memoir or fiction. There’s a sense of respect, acceptance and trust that comes from sharing our stories with each other.
Catharsis. This refers to the relief we feel when we release and express distressing emotions. Sometimes it helped to be able to vent to other writers about how difficult the writing process could be, how demoralizing it felt to be rejected or ignored by agents, and so forth. Those experiences became less shameful when they could be shared and validated.
Interpersonal learning. I spent five years at NPW and came to appreciate the immense value of feedback shared over time. Others can help us recognize our strengths, gently prompt us to acknowledge our blind spots and celebrate our progress.
Self-understanding. What this means to me, in terms of a critique group, is the process of coming to accept and solidify one’s identity as a writer. By regularly showing up and sharing your work with others you begin to take your writing more seriously, to understand its place in your life and the nature of your commitment to it.
I was fortunate indeed to find New Providence Writers and experience all this. Until I can find another critique group – and perhaps, even then – I will have to hold them in my mind and heart so that I don’t write alone.