“Writing isn’t done by committee.” That’s the apt assertion of author Mark Slouka, as quoted in no less an authority than “The New York Times.”

It reminds me of the friend who indignantly asked, “How can you let other people tell you how to write?” The occasion for my friend’s well-meant question was my complaint about a critique from my writers’ group. I’d brought in a new story, only to get a unanimously negative reaction to it. This is what fueled my friend’s indignation. (Never mind that the critiques spurred me on to do an applauded revision.)

Although my friend’s question has lingered in my head for many years, I still submit my stories to the same group. I get honest and perceptive comments each time. As I advise anyone interested in joining a writers’ group, the feedback can be invaluable because it’s difficult to be objective about your own work. (When I once complained that although I’m adept at critiquing other people’s writing I’m invariably less perceptive with my own, a woman pointed out how impossible it is to see the back of your own head, without a mirror. “I can see the back of your head and you can see the back of mine,” she said.)

I do believe that feedback can be invaluable –but I don’t always bring in my first draft if it feels as fragile as a premature infant. I’ve also learned not to show a manuscript to every friend and relative. I know too well the ones who’ll say “it’s great,” to please me, and other people (nameless) who’ll pick the piece apart out of envy or whatever.

As expert as my co-members are there comes a point at which you have to trust your own judgment. I had a vivid lesson in that when the two most skillful editors in the group disagreed about the ending of my story. One thought the last lines were “just right”; the other saidthat the last two lines needed to be reversed. Since I revered their expertise equally, I couldn’t decide between the opposing opinions. Paralyzed by chronic indecisiveness, I was unable to send the story to any magazines – for five years! When I finally made a choice the story was published, but I’m not sure to this day which of the voices I ended up heeding.

That experience taught me it’s vital to develop the ability to weigh critiques and know what works best for you. My favorite rejoinder was by a women who listened responsively to our comments about one of her stories until we suggested that the title should be changed. Clutching her manuscript she proclaimed: ”That’s not negotiable.”

Whether her title was wise or not, her declaration of writer’s rights was something to aim for, too.

Website: annehosansky.com
Books: “Widow’s Walk” – available through iUniverse.com; “Turning Toward Tomorow” – xLibris.com; “Ten Women of Valor” – CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com. Also available on Amazon Kindle.


“Life gets in the way.” That’s how a friend explained why she hasn’t been able to write lately. So what can we do when we’re marooned in a desert of uncreativity?

I’m writing this in the midst of my own desert, since I seem to be stuck in the longest dry spell I’ve ever had. I tell myself to just apply my bottom to the desk chair and sit there until my tardy muse arrives. An hour passes. Two. Nada.

Maybe I shouldn’t be sitting. After all, Nabokov wrote standing up – on index cards, no less. I try typing while standing;  the only result is an aching back. So I emulate Phillip Roth, who paced back and forth along with his flow of ideas.  At least I’m getting some exercise.

Edith Wharton did write while sitting up, but she was in bed. (She also had a maid pick up the pages tossed on the floor!)  Truman Capote was prone to writing while prone– a position which didn’t keep him from drinking at the same time.  So I tried getting into bed with a blank notebook  (sans alcohol)  and ended up with the pages still blank – but I had a good nap.

Of course it isn’t whether we’re horizontal or vertical that counts. It’s what’s going on inside us. All the clamor of should be doing this and why did I say that and how will I cope with the latest trauma coming down the road?   Instead I blame my stalled creativity on the outer clamor around me.  I live in New York and am constantly battered by neighbors talking loudly under my window, dogs locked up alone barking for hours, screeching car alarms that don’t turn off.  If only I had Proust’s famous soundproof room I’d be able to write, I tell myself. Yet when I have insomnia and instead of fighting it, take a therapist’s advice and head for the computer at three in the morning, in a house that’s as silent as a tomb,  I remain as blank as ever.  I miss the excuse of sound effects.

However, I’ve found a stopgap solution: my Three R’s: RESURRECTING  my “failure” stories I’d given up on; REREADING them with a view helped by the distance since I last worked on them; and REWRITING –  which means anything that will give the story a totally new feel.  Sometimes I go from third person to first, or vice versa. Or I change the tense, usually from past to present.  Maybe I make page two the starting point or end the story a paragraph earlier,  and find that cutting the excess verbiage transforms the entire piece.  It’s true I ‘m not writing a new story, but I’m bringing a discarded one to life.

The main thing with a so-called writer’s block is  not to succumb to the feeling that now equals forever.  By one means or another we do eventually make our way through,  and  often we’re surprised to find that we’re writing better than before.

P.S. Writing about not writing helps, too!