‘Hold it up to the mirror,’ said the tutor at the portrait drawing class.
I’d asked her to come and look at my work. It looked all right to me. Secretly, I thought I was doing rather well. I’d followed the usual advice of standing back from it every ten minutes or so. I knew that staying too close for too long in front of a drawing means you lose a sense of perspective.
I gave the mirror idea a go. A nasty shock. How could I not have seen what was now so obvious? Eyes too far apart, neck too thin, not enough back to the head. Errors that I’d missed, but which were clearly shown up in the mirror image.
A writing group can act as a mirror. How many times have I been grateful for the incisive comments of other writers. They’ve homed in on faults and omissions I’d never have spotted for myself. The value of other people’s ideas and suggestions as to how a piece of work can be improved cannot be over-estimated.
But there may be dangers. In a long-established group, familiarity with, and enjoyment of, the work of other members may make the mirror a little dusty. We may sit too close to the work being read to be as objective and sharp in our criticism as we once were.
On one level none of this matters. The happiness gained from sharing the whole business of putting words together and the generous encouragement of others must be worth more than anything. But it would be interesting to learn of the experiences of other writing groups. Any comments, anyone?