Monday, March 30, 2015

Reconsidering Group Influence

I had the pleasure of watching a speech competition. Some of the speakers used practiced intonation that I could tell they purposely used when they gave speeches.

Personally, I prefer a more conversational voice. That doesn't make the special "speaking voice" bad--in fact, many of those who won awards spoke in that way. I suspect that members of the organization teach each other to use that voice, whether purposefully or simply by example.

I suspect this because I've noticed something similar in my writing life. I'm part of a great critique group, and I appreciate their support as I work to improve. But I've noticed that to some point, we tend to train each other to be alike in ways that we don't necessarily need to be. (I say "we" because I'm guilty of this, too!) I'm not knocking critique groups; they've been a huge part of my growth over the years! But, my education would be incomplete if I stopped learning from other sources, as well.

That's why it's important for me as a writer to make sure I'm looking outside my own little group to see what else is out there and how I can learn from it. For example, I recently learned of a Christian literary magazine called Ruminate. What I read there was so different from what I see in my critique group that it was refreshing and challenging. Same goes for published novels I read in both the Christian and secular market.

Even if you're not an artist or writer or performer, chances are you're part of a group of people that trains each other to behave or do things in a certain way. I'm not suggesting a free-for-all where we listen to no one's opinions and decide what's right and wrong ourselves. I'm a follower of Jesus Christ, and I believe everything needs to be run through the filter of my faith before I apply it. But even still...

Sometimes, there is a straight-forward right way to do things and the group is right about it. Sometimes, the group has put an emphasis on something that doesn't deserve it. And sometimes, the group is just plain wrong.

Make sure, as you develop the art you create or the person you're becoming, that you're pausing a moment to really consider if the examples around you are worth following, and to what extent.

Love,
Your Sister

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