It was small but mighty. We sat around the table, all four of us. Three-fourths of the group couldn't make it on Saturday morning. I was slightly disoriented coming in myself. I got up feeling a little depressed because I had too much pizza the night before and it showed on the bathroom scale. I was beyond tired. And I was wondering why I hadn't received anyone else's work through e-mail and feared I would be the only one having mine critiqued.
I'm not sure WHY I joined this writer's group. I somewhat know the person who is leading it, but no one else. I trust the leader because she has a sweet spirit and a kindness about her that tempers her intimidating list of credentials. She is a big picture person...a visionary who not only dreams big, but DOES big. And she is dreaming big for us. Actually she accelerates the dreaming process. Where I think "some day I'd like to write a book" she is on to "when we start to get published..."
While basically by personality I am pretty much an open book and wear it all on my sleeves to a fault, it is still intimidating to put your inner thoughts to paper, read it outloud to strangers, then sit quietly while they pick it apart. There is a protocol to doing this, and you are not permitted to to give any kind of explanation or mia culpa before you read what your wrote. You just read it and let the chips fall.
On Saturday I was the one asked to read first. The lady who sat next to me is a professional editor. Out of the corner of my eye I could see her quietly thumping her pen as I read my work. When I finished, she was the first to comment. "This lacks focus. I mean, I'm asking myself, why do I need to KNOW this?".
Just a few short weeks ago had anyone used those particular words, I would have been crushed and melted into a pool of tears. I would have taken it so personally, and probably would have given up altogether. While the words temporarily stung, I listened as the others weighed in. There were a few compliments on some of my detailed descriptions. That was something I had been criticized for at the previous meeting, so I had worked extra hard on that area. It felt good that they noticed.
The more they had to say, the more it was impressed on me why I am doing this. These people are here to help me. We are here to help each other. They gave me some suggestions not only on how to structure what I had to say, but some things I could expand on to make my work stand out and not look like "anyone's" story.
All of this is done in love. This is not a college class where you sink or swim. This is a group of Christian women who come together for the purpose of encouraging one another and for stirring up the gifts that are within us.
I have a long way to go. I'm very challenged, and barely have the room in my life to forge ahead with this. But I need this so much. All this costs me is my time, and a teachable spirit. I'm so thankful for this opportunity. Somehow in my heart I know that when the fog clears, I will see clearly that this was a God thing all along.
"...as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another..." Proverbs 27:17 NIV