To me, #amwriting, means much more than, “I’m putting words down on paper / stroking words into digital files.” For starters, it includes ideation, inspiration, education, assessment … and editing. (Sometime lots of editing.) Being serious about creative work requires continual learning, skills development, ideation, research, and a relentless focus of quality. One way I accomplish this important work is through peer review groups. Participating in such groups has definitely helped me learn and improve my craft. Below, I’ve outlined 5 ways a peer review group can help.
1. Improve your Craft
When you are learning your craft, peers can introduce you to new concepts or help you better understand a technique. They may have recommendations for further study, or provide sources for inspiration or ideation. In my poetry peer review groups, it’s not just what I learn from having my own poems evaluated. I gain a deeper understanding of poems when I review others’ work. My interaction with peers in a structured setting, combined with educational programs and self-study, has been key to improvements I have made in my craft. Some of my contest-winning poems resulted from peer feedback. You can not only improve a specific piece but bring forward learnings into future work. The improvement I’ve seen in my own work is measurable, and I’ve seen peers elevate their work as well. It’s rewarding to help each other grow.
2. Change Your Perspective
When you are working through difficult material, or if you’ve gotten so close to something you are having a hard time stepping back, a peer group can help you see it from an outsider’s point of view. Feedback that reflects another’s experience is also valuable in assessing if you accomplished what you intended in your work. I sometimes bring pieces that I’m stuck on to the group. Resultant conversations help me step back from the piece and delve into it in a different way.
3. Become the Audience
Experiencing your work as the audience is a golden opportunity. In the peer review groups in which I participate, someone else reads your work–usually a cold read. This read helps me hear how the phrasing and line breaks I chose work, and, to some degree, how understandable the work is. A bonus? Any typos come to the forefront when someone unfamiliar with the work reads it. In addition, I hear other people’s poetry. Experiencing other poetry is an important way to learn, to get ideas, to develop new skills, and to simply enjoy the craft and artistry of poetry.
4. Get Support
Creative endeavors often ask you to become vulnerable and to be courageous. This is true of poetry, whether you write to work through issues, for contests, or to become published. A peer review group can lift you when you’ve shared work that reflects a struggle or a tough issue. Members can encourage you to submit a poem to a contest or publication, and they can keep your spirits up when those rejections come along. And those rejections will come along. One talented poet I know recently shared it took 14 years (and a pile of rejections) before she was published in a journal that was important to her!
5. Find Your Tribe
Within your peer review group, you have in common something important, perhaps integral, to your life. This can be a powerful social connection for you in addition to being a mechanism to improve your craft.
Want more tips?
Check out my article on the power of a daily ritual. Bring intention to your day to better achieve results.