On Writing

Anyone following my blog for long knows I’m adept at doing all sorts of writing that isn’t my book. Occasionally I focus and work on “the wolf book” (how I think of my work-in-progress), but I’m easily distracted by other bright-and-shiny writing options.

This blog is Exhibit A.

My emails and Facebook posts often become mini-stories. (Exhibits B and C.)

Then, there I was, jumping on the Kindle Vella train late last year, publishing “episodes” of Law-Law Land and now, Wild and Gentle Dogs. (Exhibits D and E).

I tell myself they’re all forms of writing practice. Perfecting my craft.

Sounds so reasonable, right? Noble, even.

But really, all those exhibits? They’re all just another form of procrastination, a skill I possess in spades.

Let me introduce you to my latest diversion (Exhibit F): On Writing.

Yeah, I know. How ironic.

But here’s the thing. I am, by nature and choice, living a solitary and isolated life in a rural setting. Add the pandemic, and the chances for getting good, in-person feedback on one’s work from other writers are slim to none.

I recently joined the Burlington Writers Workshop. They’re based in Vermont but anyone can join. More particularly, I joined their Creative Nonfiction group. They meet twice a month via video to discuss two submissions from members seeking feedback on their work-in-progress. All great. I’m enjoying it. Well, except that those twice-monthly video meetings are two hours long. That’s a bit much for this introvert. Exhausting, if I’m honest. And, it can be weeks or even months before your own submission is considered by the group and feedback provided.

I got to wondering if there was a better, faster way to get that feedback. Sometimes you just want other writers to help you with a paragraph, or offer suggestions for a title, so you can move on. Feedback, quick and easy.

I happened upon an article about a new platform for private groups. It’s called Geneva. It launched a year ago, and continues to evolve, but it seemed a good option for a writing group.

After some investigation, I decided to jump all in.

Because groups on Geneva are private, they don’t show up in online searches. One must be invited to visit and become a member of a Geneva group. That was a feature I liked. Members in On Writing can feel secure submitting something for feedback and comment, knowing only other member writers will see it.

I created and established the bones for On Writing on Geneva. I invited two friends to join the group and help me test the site’s features – chat room, video room, forum room. (The site refers to such spaces as rooms; the group’s site is referred to as a home.) They assured me it’s easily navigated and intuitive to use. I then invited two writing friends, and we’ve started sharing submissions for feedback, seeing how that works. So far, so good!

Of course, my writing focus is nonfiction. But I added rooms for fiction and poetry. I want to be inclusive.

On Writing is a work in progress. As administrator, I’ll manage members and rooms, adapting as we go along. One can use the site without downloading it to desktop or phone, but the experience is enhanced if you do.

So. If any of you reading this blog post are thinking, “Oh, I’d like to participate in that!” send me an email through my blog telling me why this interests you and what sort of writing you’re currently working on. I want all members to be actively working on a project, yet also willing to read and provide feedback to other members. No attention hogs tolerated! Think of On Writing as your neighborhood writing group reconfigured to accommodate our pandemic reality.

Bottom line: On Writing is a space to help us focus on and improve our writing.

Write on!

20 thoughts on “On Writing”

  1. This idea appeals to me. I participated in a local writers group for a couple of years. We had a reading night once a month but there was almost no feedback given except typically a couple ‘that was nice’ comments. The reason I’d like to join is that I’m always trying to improving my writing skills. I’d like to get writing feedback on wordpress, but that is rare, I mostly only ever get discussion about story topics. Also, giving feedback and reading other’s feedback to other writers would probably be the biggest avenue for improvement.

    If allowed to join, I see a couple of problems… I couldn’t really start until November when coaching ends (this is my last year) and I don’t have any plans for a ‘project’. I would just creating essays (probably for submission outside my blog). My long term goal is to publish another book of essays but I was thinking about that as more of a retirement project.

    So I don’t know if I’m a good fit for the group. Anyway it’s a great idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’d be a great asset to the group, Jeff. A project can be a blog post, a personal essay, whatever; doesn’t need to be a book. Send me an email with your preferred email address and I’ll sent you an invite. You can look around, see what you think. If you don’t have time to participate until November, no worries. The goal is for members to contribute when time and energy permit. No schedule, no hard commitment. With enough members, there should always be enough submissions to review and members to offer feedback.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. How much fiction could you or I create based on what we have seen in family law? And the tragedy is, it is non-fiction.

    I am rather taken of late by the antagonist of Apocalypse Now, Col. Kurtz played by Marlin Brando. He lies dying repeating “the horror, the horror.” Family Law should be renamed “Strangers Chaos.”

    So go ahead and call it non-fiction, but no one will believe it……..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We could create tons! Tragi-comedy, because honestly, the only way to remain sane is to laugh.

      Start working on some, Pete. We can collaborate. Let’s fictionalize the Mountie story 😉

      Like

  3. I was thinking some more about what you’ve written here and my own self as a writer. When I started this blog back in 2013 I thought writing to a prompt was for suckers who had nothing to say. As happens 9 times out of 10 in my life when I have an opinion like that, I get the stuffing knocked out of me. As we both know, I write to a prompt every day. I discovered that consequenceless writing is great and writing to a prompt is just that. I don’t have to invest a lot into it (but sometimes I do), I’ve built it into my daily routine so I don’t have to “Oh God, I should sit down and write” ever at all. From it has come some good short stories and poems that I wouldn’t have written otherwise. I guess I’ve written 3000 posts — I delete them pretty often, but it’s a lot of writing. Sometimes it’s good writing.

    Writing daily to a prompt is pretty much what I used to tell my writing students to do — sit down and write something for 20 minutes and don’t think about how it’s going to turn out. Just write. We did that exercise at least once a week. I think generally people procrastinate less when they don’t have to worry about if they’re doing what they should be doing, if they’re doing it right, all that makes most people find something else to do.

    Also, in a strange way, success is paralyzing. Lucky for me, I haven’t succeeded (yet?).

    I was in an online writing group for a while. I didn’t like it. Most of the participants weren’t writing, but they were very good about talking about what writing (in this case fiction) should be. The leader was OK, but the participants would rather argue about what another writer was doing than put out anything of their own. It was (IMO) a way for some of them to see themselves as writers without writing anything.

    I think William S. Burroughs hit the writing nail on the head in his comment about Kerouac, “Kerouac is a writer, by that I mean he writes.” That’s really the first requirement and I think anything a person does that gets them putting words on a screen, page, whatever is good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve found writing groups to be like any other group – sometimes helpful, sometimes not, and often including annoying people that drive away non-annoying members. The other frustration is lag time. As a writer, when I’m rolling I appreciate quick feedback on whatever has me questioning myself so I can keep rolling. I’m too impatient to wait weeks or months. Time will tell whether this online group I’m creating meets my hopes and goals, but so far, starting with three engaged members (of which I’m one), it’s working wonderfully. And best part? I’m in control of membership 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Rebecca,
    I’m intrigued. I’ve been working on my book for far too long. Between procrastination and pulling my hair out, I’m spinning in circles. Is there any chance I could join your group? I’ve never been on an online group and I’m not even sure how this works…I think I’d have a major learning curve to factor in, but I’d really like to participate. I’ll send you an email as you requested. Mona

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ha. I do a ton of writing that doesn’t contribute to my writing goals too. I don’t know why I never face ‘that cyberpunk book’ head on. And yes, I call my manuscripts by unimaginative names too, since I only come up with the title after I’m done, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

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