We had the second meeting of our newly expanded writing group yesterday. The last time I got involved in a writing group, it was tetchy. One woman corrected my grammar and punctuation, and then asked me why would anyone want to read about family. I became aggressively polite in the way I used to in the face of super irritating bookstore customers. Looking back it seems clear that she felt threatened by me. We have similar backgrounds, only I was a better writer. She couldn’t play the sharp, funny, [ethnicity redacted] card with me.
My poetry group dissolved after many years in a stew of issues that were unrelated to poetry. It was sad and difficult. Then a writing group started up at work. It was low-key, just a few of us, meeting on my dinner break. This year we decided to expand it to include other people at the school. We are at all different levels of experience, writing wise.
One woman wrote a poem for the first time. She is usually a fiction writer. And, between you and me, the poems weren’t very good. But whose first poems are? She was receptive to feedback, and understood what we were saying, so I predict that her poems are going to improve soon. And somehow it worked. The vibe was supportive yet interesting. Everyone had different opinions, but we all agreed on the good stuff, even if it was for different reasons. You can’t buy good rapport.
Afterward I went to coffee with one of the writers. We talked for two hours about writing, students, teaching, adjuncting, schools, and how to make a living doing what we do. I was raised in an academic family. I know what I was doing was important. We were talking shop, making connections. And yet, as a freelancer, that was four hours where I wasn’t getting paid. I’m not complaining, because I know I am privileged not to work in a fucking mine or an office where the kitchen gossip is about whether men are gay if they pee sitting down.
But a certain amount of freelancing is guilt management. I use guilt to motivate me to get to work. But sometimes, I need to be able to go out and talk shop and not feel guilty about it. One cannot copyedit all the time. I believe in making connections, and I believe in professional development, however you define it. Also I need to take my work (editing or writing) seriously. And if I have to give pompous words to a couple hours in a coffeeshop to gain respect (my own or others’), I will. It was a hell of a lot more productive than some production meetings I’ve been to.
What’s your professional development?