I took a class in Stand-Up Comedy because I thought my writing needed more humor. I was right about that, but I am not sure that the class itself helped with the humor.
On the other hand, I learned a lot.
One of the things that struck me as interesting was that I followed the instructor’s instructions to the letter. He commented about that -- because no one else did. (This was an adult education class, no grades.) I told him simply, "I am paying you to teach me something, I would be very stupid not to follow your instructions."
In my not-so-humble opinion, I had the best routine in the class. Every time I have done it, the audience has laughed. I couldn't get a better grade than that.
Why didn’t the others follow the instructions? Once again, I don’t know. My best guess is that they were there to validate their experiences, not to learn stand-up. Or they thought they knew more than the instructor did. Or they hadn’t listened to enough stand-up routines to understand the instructions. Or any combination of the above.
The parallel with the writers critique groups is that even if someone who knows what they are talking about tells them what to do, the members don’t listen. For pretty much the same reasons that the stand-up comedy students didn’t. I know that it is difficult to sort out the people who do know what needs to be done from those who don’t. But still --
I keep telling myself to shut up; I am wasting my time because even if I do know what I am talking about, the people in the groups have no way of knowing. I am only slightly published, nothing really worth mentioning -- outside of college periodicals. But I am not telling them anything that they can’t read for themselves in books that go beyond "don’t use helping verbs." Whether or not they use helping verbs, they won’t ever be good writers if they don’t learn a few facts about stories and storytelling.
There are plenty of books on story telling. See my list for a few to start with.
So why do I keep on going to critique groups? Well, they are nice people to hang out with, interested in some things that I am. So I keep going.
But if I like them -- and I do—I really want to help them succeed.
Frustration strikes again.
Things Take Time
23 hours ago