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Monday, February 18, 2008

Critique Partners and Groups, part two

Critique Partners and Groups:
Viable Help, Coffee Clutch, or Cheerleading Section?

by Ruth Logan Herne

Click here for part one

Examine your group, its principles, goals and desires. If they don’t match yours, be brave enough to change. Move on or seek an outside critiquer in addition to your present group. This can be done without hurt as long as you’re discreet. After all, your present partners may work fine with someone else. The mixed dynamics of your group could be skewed and you might be the “skewer”.

In any case, make the changes necessary to be the best you can be. Don’t settle, don’t simper, don’t pause on the way out the door if that’s what you need to do. Set your goal and work toward that aspiration with focus and strength. If you’ve got what it takes, it will happen. I firmly believe that. So get off the wall, dust off your butt, do what has to be done. There isn’t a facet of this industry that allows wallowing, even to the greats. Generally speaking, those who wallow have great difficulty with forward momentum.

Don’t let it be you who gets stuck in the mud. Believe in yourself, avoid the pity party and put in the time. Become your own best editor then listen carefully when other strong writers guide you. Sometimes that one nugget of wisdom clears the path to a better chapter, a stronger book, a greater chance.

Of course there will still be times when you should smile and nod. That’s human nature. We’ve all been there, done that. The trick is to go home, start typing and fix what should be changed.

It will be worthwhile. And then some. You’ll feel better about your writing and develop an inherent power to forge on. Do what it takes.

If Michael Jordan had quit basketball when he was cut from the JV squad in high school, a legend would have never been forged on the boards of Chicago’s United Center. If Lance Armstrong had decided that men with cancer couldn’t compete professionally, we’d have missed a five-time Tour de France winner. If Wilma Rudolph had let being black, skinny, crippled and poor stand in her way, untold moments of running greatness would have never come to pass.

As a premature baby, Wilma was refused medical care at the local Southern hospital. The twentieth of twenty-two children, Wilma’s hard-working mother worked to care for her fragile daughter while keeping house for wealthy white families. When it was discovered that Wilma had polio, and that her leg and foot were atrophying in an untenable position, this “never say never” mother found a hospital fifty miles away that would treat Wilma. Fifty miles. Wow.

This is post-depression era, in the thick of World War II Tennessee we’re talking here. With no money for physical therapy, Wilma’s reconditioning was performed by her parents and ardent brothers and sisters. After years of struggle, she was finally able to give up her leg brace and walk normally at age twelve.

She joined the junior high basketball team. The coach didn’t let her play a game for three years.

Three years. How many of us would have stuck it out? Gone the distance? Finally, playing basketball as a high school sophomore, the Tennessee college coach noticed her speed and form on the court. After inviting her to a summer track camp (her school had no money to field a track team), Wilma Rudolph was offered a scholarship.

At sixteen this polio survivor took the bronze in the Olympic games, running on a 4 x 400meter relay team.

At twenty it was three golds.

Sweet.

Go for the gold. Silver’s fine, too. Bronze? Hey, I’d take it. In a heartbeat.

But then I’d hit the keyboard once more, as long as my eyes can see and my brain can reason, because why on earth would you settle for third when you were within a hair’s breadth of first?

Good question. Go for it. Make the changes you need to make to be the best you can be.

It’ll be worth it in the end.

According to Wilma.

Ruth Logan Herne loves God, family, country and sometimes dogs. When she’s not hard at work torturing young children, she writes wonderful stories of faith, family, hope and inspiration. She loves chocolate and has discovered Starbucks caramel/mocha frappuccinos. Watch out.

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