Ramblings from the Gryphon Rose

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Cutting some faulty ties

Long, long ago—and, at this point, moderately far away—I was in a writing class. It was an excellent class, both because of the teacher and because we had a good group of people. A few of us were loath to lose the synergy after the semester ended, so we started meeting on our own. And this became an actual writers workshop. At one point we had over twenty members, I think. Not all of them came every time, of course, but several of us were there every week, with our short stories or novel chapters or what-have-you. We ranged from published novelists to complete newbies, high school students to parents and working stiffs, but everybody critiqued everything honestly and without ego. It was a really good group.
After I moved away, I spent years trying to find another group. I tried a screenwriting group once, less because I was enamored with screenwriting than because a friend mentioned it to me and we both decided to give it a shot. That petered out.
Then, two or three years ago, I was talking to a friend who’s also a writer. She mentioned that she was in one group but that it was too large for her tastes. I mentioned that I’d been wanting to find a group. We agreed that this would be a good thing. She also knew that one of our other friends had wanted to find a group, and ran the idea of forming a new group past her as well. She was interested, and so were a few others in our extended circle of friends. And so we all wound up meeting.
Right away, there were some problems. I, and my friend, wanted a weekly meeting. The others felt that was too onerous, and pushed for every few weeks. One of the others wanted to name the group something in particular, and the rest of us didn’t really care so we said “sure, whatever.” Turns out later that was a big mistake. This same individual took our acquiescence to mean that she was now in charge—she’s the sort of person who tries to claim that in every situation. And the name was apparently a holdover from a previous group, so she thought that meant she was now the senior member and we were all her juniors. At least three of us thought this was a nice little democratic group—she thought it was a dictatorship. And a few of the others were happy to follow her lead, whether because they thought she really was in charge or just to avoid any conflicts.
The group meandered along. One of my friends wound up dropping out, partially due to scheduling conflicts and partially because she was tired of the Queen Bee. The friend who I had first discussed it with also backed out because she stopped being able to attend. Another friend joined—the only other male, which was a welcome change, but he was often too busy to attend. Because meetings were only every few weeks, every meeting ended with “when should we meet next?” That later shifted to emails a week or two after the last meeting, asking when the next one was. I often found myself without anything to submit, because I’d have turned something in just before the meeting and didn’t have anything new that was at the critiquing stage yet. And I wasn’t willing to submit things with the caveat “oh, it’s already turned in, so you can critique it but your comments won’t really matter.” Shame not everyone felt that way about their submissions.
As time passed and my daughter was born and I got a full-time job, I started missing more meetings. I was busy, I wasn’t writing fiction as often, but really I just didn’t care as much. The group wasn’t what I had wanted. It wasn’t as friendly as the old group, it was far more catty, there was a lot of grandstanding (always from the same people), and we didn’t meet often enough for me to remember the schedule or get into the habit. Several meetings took place at a restaurant, over drinks, which is fine except that apparently only those who had said in advance they’d be there were told where and when. Nice way to prevent anyone from showing up last-minute.
Things came to a head yesterday. One of my other friends is now in the group. Apparently he was invited last meeting. Without telling the absent members anything about this. And it wasn’t just a “hey, should we invite him? Yeah, let’s. Let me call him, then.” No, apparently there was an entire spate of emails about it, but Queen Bee kept it to the “currently active” members, as she later explained. I have no problem with my friend joining. I do have a problem with the continuing power-play. And, since I’m not known for keeping my mouth shut, I spoke out about it online. Got a lot of snippy little replies, including one from Queen Bee saying “Fine, you want the reins? Here they are.” Not that she’d ever actually relinquish any sort of control, but I didn’t even know there were reins. Obviously we were in two different groups that just happened to have the same members and the same meeting times.
So I did the smart thing, the thing I should have done a year ago. I quit the group. Got a few more snippy replies castigating my lack of commitment to my writing. Say it to my face, I dare you. It’s not the writing I’m not interested in, it’s the group. And boy, are those two not the same thing.
I feel good about my decision. One of my other friends also stepped away. We’re talking about a weekly group. It would be a lot more casual, a lot friendlier, and a lot more constructive, I think. And we’d all make the decisions together. I don’t know that I’ll ever get the synergy of my old group back again, but I’m pretty sure this one would be a lot closer to it than the one I just left.
One of these days I’ll learn when to cut my losses. I’m still working on that, but I still tend to hold out way too long.


  • At 2/23/2005 4:48 PM, Blogger Jenifer said…

    Way to go! Quitting the group was long overdue! I know how many times you turned something in and planned to go, only to have the meeting cancelled at the last minute, and the next scheduled for a time when you couldn't make it. I know from experience that the QB you bention is too full of herself to even acknowledge the presence of anyone whom she does not feel will be of benefit to her. People like that are not dedicated to writing, they are dedicated to self-gratification and ego bathing. You will be much happier with the members of the group who have people skills and actually want to work together (the ones who have quit the group). The rest can go to Hell, and I would be happy to send them there. :)

  • At 3/06/2005 12:39 PM, Blogger Qadgop said…


  • At 3/06/2005 12:42 PM, Blogger Qadgop said…

    Gotta say, this group sounds like something to've been dropped almost from the get-go. Glad you've escaped. (I won't even whinily ask if I can join the new one.) Groups often seem to attract "Group Types" for whom the group itself and their places within it, rather than its purpose, is the prime thing, and for the life of me I've never quite figured out why.


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