Writing is a very solitary act, but at a certain point it becomes a collaborative process. It’s the collaboration that always slows me down. I would love to have others read and give me feedback on my work before I submit it to other places. However, I sometimes don’t know the first place to look in order to get the type of feedback I need.
Part of the reason I fail on the collaboration part is because I’m a bit paranoid. I won’t even write many of my snappier thoughts because I don’t want a better writer to take them and do better with them. I usually do not post any of my fiction without having it under copyright first. Of course, this means that anyone who might be interested in discussing my work doesn’t get to see it.
I have lots of trouble categorizing my writing in terms of style and genre. I know much of my inspiration comes from writers like Gayl Jones and Zora Neale Hurston, but I’m not on the same level as they are. Not knowing a genre means I don’t know how to find a potential audience. I’m someone who eschews labels, but I understand how they help readers find the types of work they like. I know this would also help me find someone who would be willing to read my type of writing.
I also miss out on collaborations because I know it takes time and dedication to go over someone else’s work. I wish I could hire an editor, but it’s just not possible right now. This means I can’t get any good feedback before I submit. Editors cost money and I just don’t have any in my pocket. Seriously, you just can’t ask people to spend their time on your work with no compensation. They may enjoy what they read, but they need something for their time and effort.
Having said that, it may seem odd that I’m also rather picky about who I want to read my work. I would much prefer to have other black women read and critique my work than anyone else because they usually come from a place of understanding the world of which I write. Although anyone is welcome to read my writing, I make it no secret (and make no apologies) that I primarily write for myself and black women like me. I have submitted to places before knowing I would get free critique but not accepted. Some feedback is helpful, but I also mostly get advice from gatekeepers who want stories more familiar to what they already think they know about black women and black life. Otherwise, much of the critique isn’t really about what I have actually written, so I would much rather prefer working with black women.
I’ve been thinking lately about trying to start a writing group here in town for black women, but I usually have no luck in starting organizations. Furthermore, most of my writing connections are poets and I don’t write poetry. I considered a Meetup group, but I get easily frustrated when I think others do not show the same dedication to something that I do. I understand that life gets in the way of a few things, but I also expect a bit of consideration. I don’t like online groups, especially since I don’t like to spend a lot of time trying to read from a screen (which is why I just couldn’t stick with Authonomy). This also means I miss out on the collaborative part of writing.
Yes, like most people I’m sensitive about my work, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t listen to some useful critiques. I would love to grow and improve with my writing. But how can you ask anyone to read and critique without having anything to compensate for their time and attention?