Yesterday I went to a writer’s group meeting in Sanford. It was excellent!

I’ve been to a fair number of writer’s groups over the years and most are not excellent. Most are more like, “Well, maybe it’ll be better if I get to know people.” Or sometimes, “That was tedious, but maybe the topic at the next meeting will be more interesting.” The one in Arcata was, “Wow, they’re all so young and enthusiastic.” My favorite one in the past was often, “That was fun, but we didn’t talk about writing much.”

The meeting yesterday was focused: we did talk about writing. And the attendees were a great mix of published authors, debut authors, and writers who wanted to work on their writing without necessarily planning on publishing. In a really weird coincidence, there were four first-time attendees (of whom I was one) and all of us had the same name. I was the last to arrive, and when I introduced myself there was a burst of laughter and surprise — it was confusing, then amusing. My name does not usually cause hilarity.

The meeting format was introductions, followed by a creative exercise, followed by thirty minutes of solo writing time, followed by a check-in. I was not particularly optimistic going into the meeting — “creative exercises” in the past haven’t really tended to be my thing — but I was willing to try. So glad I did! This creative exercise was awesome.

Maybe it was just that it was something I needed at that exact moment, but the exercise was one about personalizing your inner critic. There were a whole series of questions, and I really wish now that I had saved the sheet the questions were written on so that I could quote some of them. I did a quick google search trying to find the exact questions, but the topic “inner critic” is a rabbit hole that would take me hours to work my way out of, so no go.

Basically, though, you start by thinking about the voice of judgement that you hear in your head and what it says to you, and then you think about who it resembles/where it comes from. One woman, for example, discovered that her voice reminded her of girls from high school. Then you try to make it a character, describing its appearance and some random things about it, including what it eats for breakfast.

We did this in writing, in fifteen minutes, and quoting from my own brain dump, my inner critic is:

Santa Claus, but from the perspective of a small child. Enormous, red, scary — a stranger whose lap you’re supposed to sit in, who’s judging you and can see you all the time, everything you do, even while you’re sleeping. And if you fail to be perfect, he will publicly shame and humiliate you by putting coal in your stocking…

What does my inner critic have for breakfast? The souls of small children, obviously.

Earlier in the meeting, during the introductions, I had said that I have five unfinished projects currently, all of which I’m stuck on because halfway through they go incredibly dark and I don’t want to be a dark writer. After I shared my inner critic exercise, I think it was the group leader who suggested that perhaps it was time to embrace a genre switch. Ha.

But it was really fun. I had a great time. The group only meets once a month, but I’m definitely putting it into my calendar to do again. Meanwhile, it’s time to start persisting on Cici. Yes, she’s gone dark — Why, oh why, are my sentient otters being tortured? They were supposed to be fun! — But somehow I am going to make it through the darkness to the other side. As Christina said when I was whining to her, you can’t have light without darkness, anyway.

the santa claus robot from Doctor Who

My inner critic. That instrument is really a flamethrower.