Last Saturday, my writing group had a dinner party to celebrate summer. As I sat out on the deck with my friends, I realized that we had been together for more than 20 years. (I can’t tell you exactly how many, but when we started, Margaret had no children; now she has one who will soon finish college.)
Like many such groups, we differ on various issues. Over the years, we’ve found that we disagree on many, many things, from child rearing, to global warming, to presidential candidates, to the role of standardized testing in our schools. Especially during elections, we’ve ‘discussed’ so much, we sometimes have to rush through the actual reading part of our meetings.
We differ greatly in our opinions on writing and literature as well. One of us is a bit of a literary snob and has probably never read a mystery or romance novel in her life. Another is suspicious of all that ‘literary’ fiction stuff. Two are scientists who can really get caught up on some detail, like how fast something can rust.
Yet it’s this very mixture that works. When I have the sun in the wrong part of the sky in a scene, the two scientists will correct me. When I have two pages of inner monologue, I know one person might like it, another will hate it. By listening to both their comments, I have a better idea what to do.
I’ve found this approach works in most areas of my life. While at times, I think it would be very peaceful to have people who always agreed with me and thought my approach to life the best thing since sliced bread, I know that our very strength often comes from this mixture of attitudes, approaches, and preferences. As long as we all agree on the main thing (We want good writing. We want a good department.), difference is good.