Saturday, November 20, 2010

Writing Communities In the Digital Age

I've been thinking about the magic of critique groups and wondering how it translates into the digital forum. I'm in two groups at the moment - one that meets live and in-person at a cozy neighborhood coffee shop once a week and the other born from a face-to-face workshop experience that is trying to recapture that energy through a monthly, digital exchange. The live, in-person energy is so powerful and digital communication is such a different realm. I wonder if the give-and-take, push--and-pull exploratory exchange and support of the in-person critique group can actually transfer to a digital format?

Our digital group has gotten off to a terrific start, but I think I need to learn how to critique and share ideas more effectively in that forum. I miss the capacity to write comments directly onto the page and interact physically with the printed word of another author. I miss the ideas that are born from the free-flowing conversation. I question whether I'm providing the proper nuance to my words that will allow another author to hear what I say without the unintentional sting criticism can sometimes carry. I wonder if my own responses are too much, too little, or seem defensive when they're not meant to. There is an art to giving criticism that is honest and useful while also being supportive and encouraging. There is an art to hearing and receiving criticism of your "baby."

What strategies have you used to translate the face-to-face critique experience into the digital world? What challenges have you faced? How have you overcome them? Are there ways in which you prefer the digital writing community to a live writing community?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:54 PM

    I belong to International Centre Women Playwrights and have for 16 years, but this is not a critique group, it is a women's support and info sharing group. It has often been my primary support group. I now belong to WOMPO which is a group for women poets, again, not a critique group, but different from ICWP. I have an informal group of playwrights with whom I share my playwriting online and sometimes in person. This IS a critique group. Two of us meet weekly -- kind of -- and share our work. But our critiques are more often online than in person because it is easier to share on computer than to print all that paper. We use Word Tools to make our changes and notes in different colors right on each other's work, then email the pages back and forth. Maybe because we also see each other in person, none of this seems harsh. Also, our group consists of only three (sometimes only two) people.

    I also mentor a young writer online. We initially met at Willamette Writers 2 years ago. (was it 3?). We have never seen each other face to face since then. She sends me her work every week, I critique it and send it back. Again, we use Word Tools and email. It works for us. I am encouraging and supportive, and I am as editorially critical of her work as I am of my own.

    For me, online writing groups are convenient. Of course I would prefer face to face.


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