I’ve finally done it. Bitten the proverbial bullet. Made myself a “leader” of a “writer’s group.” It’s a group where we practice creativity, which is, after all, a skill.
Honestly, I stay away from writer’s groups as a rule because … who was it that said, “I’d never join a group that would have me as a member?” Another equally valid reason is that I despise critique groups.
Practice Creativity if You Want to Improve
Most writer’s groups employ mutual critique as a major component of their activities, which, if anyone’s listening, I strongly advise against! Whoever made the idea of a critique group central to the popular conception of “what writers do when they get together” needs to be strung up by his toenails. Instead writers need to use their together time to practice creativity.
Listen, writers, if you want someone to help you get better at your writing, take a tip from, well, EVERY OTHER PROFESSION. Does a beginning bricklayer ask another amateur bricklayer if his courses are straight? No, he apprentices with a seasoned professional until he gets it right.
Does a nuclear physicist present her findings to a group of budding physics students and ask them to check her math? No, she takes her work to a professor or Einstein or someone like that, someone who knows a lot more than she does.
Ergo: amateur writers who want to improve shouldn’t seek advice from other amateurs or (worse!) general friends and relatives. Instead, hire a professional writer, whose work you respect, to give you a critique. That pro will not only be able to tell you what’s wrong with your work (technically) but also HOW TO FIX IT. This is, of course, crucial to helping you grow. So is practicing creativity.
Writers Need to Work Out, Just Like Athletes
This new writer’s group has nothing to do with critique. It’s called Improv for Writers and is focused on writing exercises extemporaneously as a way to practice creativity. Together, we spend forty minutes individually writing exercises.
For instance, the first exercise was simple: open a scene with a character in a pleasant, relaxing setting, then add a conflict. Then add a conflict on top of that, and on top of that. Pile on the conflict until you have turned the ordinary scene into something suspenseful and thrilling.
This was a great creative writing exercise, because writers often get so bogged down in description or exposition they forget to keep things lively. Some participants were only able to add one profound conflict in forty minutes of writing. Others added up to five.
Exercises are Simply for Practice
You don’t usually write in a timed setting, which is why exercises like this are so useful. You may be a poet or biographer and not a thriller writer at all, but it’s still useful to practice amping up the excitement in your work. It’s just one of many ways to practice creativity.
What I described above is an exercise, not a short story or novel opening. You’re not meant to keep it. It’s like a worksheet. It’s practice. Because yeah– your brain wasn’t born good at this. Just like any skill, creativity requires practice.
I have three of these writer’s workouts planned per week. I’ll surely be the only one in attendance at all of them. After all, I’m the leader (an imposing term if ever there was one). Tell you what–these meetings are fun. If you’re a writer, you know how isolating the work can be. If you don’t get together with groups of other writers to critique, though, when can you get together with them? Here’s the answer–for creative workouts.
If you’re a writer, I encourage you to start a workout group to practice creativity. It could just be the very thing you need for inspiration.