Long title huh? thought I would change it up a bit as there is something in particular that seems to bother me recently and that something surrounds the manner in which writers groups are being used.
Now, disclaimer here, people can join a group and when approved interact with that group however they deem fit based on group guidelines, and with that little factoid out of the way, I can also criticize said usage at will as is my right at my discretion.
Nearly 100 years ago (1919-1929) a group of writers sat down for lunch every day together at a little New York hotel and exchanged their thoughts, witticisms, cracks, jokes, satirical quips, whatever the considered particularly entertaining fodder that day. Whether you think of the Algonquin group as some sort of brilliant mavericks (one member was the recipient of four Pulitzer Prize awards, most of which were not given to him based solely on his association with this arguably powerful group), or whether you think of them as a bunch of arrogant pricks who used their position as media elite to create some sort of self-importance that really did not exist. After all, it's not like Faulkner, Hemingway or Melville were sitting at this supposedly round table at a dingy New York Hotel.
Today, the power of the internet in general and Facebook specifically, has created a sort of virtual round table of the Algonquin with writers groups out the ying-yang (that is slang for ass for those who are unaware), where writers can gather an share ideas, bounce ideas off each other, share int he pain of attempting to be a writer. All of those things that make writing such a lonely experience at times, as lonely as any art form, those things have been relinquished thanks to the faceless (well, not really, we can see the face you pretend is your best face) and anonymous sharing of ideas. And this is my problem.
More and more what it seems like to me is there are a LOT of people who say they are writers, but really what they want is to be the next 'big thing' and hit it big with their first book. They are all over writers groups basically asking others to write their books for them. They lack imagination and fortitude. They have a real basic minor piece of a story and then they wander around these Facebook groups asking "hey, what should my character do next" and "what should I do here?"
Do you think Hemingway called Faulkner and said 'Damn Bill, my character, I want him to fall in love, but I need a hook. What should I do? Should I have him meet a girl at a club in Germany? No? Have him get injured in the war and meet an English nurse? Wow! Great Idea! Thanks Bill'
I mean, really, how absurd is that? Look, throwing out sentences, asking others what they think and looking for ways to improve your story, that is one thing, but asking others for how to go from one step to the next? If you have to do that, guess what, you are not a writer. That is a harsh thing to say to someone, but sometimes the truth hurts. A writer does not get the story ideas, plotline, character development and structure from everyone telling him what to do, it comes from within.
If I were to call myself a painter and then spend the next six months asking other painters how to actually paint, well, that means I am not a freaking painter! Bounce ideas off of each other, texture, tone, depth, colors, etc. that is the concept. Asking someone else to hold your freaking hand as you make brush strokes? That's not painting folks!
I want to find ways to encourage others to pursue their dreams and pursue whichever art they find inside themselves. But we need to stop beating around the bush here. Being a writer is difficult. Asking others every aspect of storyline, plot development, character development and what a character should do next, that's a freaking coloring book.
If you want to write... WRITE. If there is a topic you are not sure works, write it out, share what you wrote and see what others think. If it is a bomb, go back and re-write it... but asking others to tell you what a character should think, do, respond, or act is not writing.
If your mind cannot think of the next step in this process and you need others to give you everything like a mama bird feeding a worm to her baby, well, maybe, just maybe, you lack the creativity to be a true writer.
And maybe I am just a bit of a prick!