Updated: Nov 15, 2019
I just came across one of the funniest creative writing-related headlines I’ve ever seen.
Published in The Telegraph, a U.K. paper, it reads like this…
“Dear Richard Madeley: ‘A Mumbling, Punchline-Stealing, Would-Be Despot Is Killing the Buzz at Our Creative Writing Group.’”
See what I mean about it being entertaining? Clearly, the person who wrote that description is indeed a storyteller. And a pretty decent one too.
Also clearly, said person was submitting a complaint to an advice column. Hence the “Dear Richard Madeley” part of the headline. Apparently, this dictator wannabe had him hanging by the end of his rope.
He had nowhere left to turn.
I wonder if he would have felt more or less discouraged to know that this isn’t an isolated instance. Unfortunately, it’s not the first time a creative writing group has taken a troubled turn. And it won’t be the last either.
Not by far.
I’d love to read the whole description of the issue at hand, not to mention the response. But alas, you have to subscribe in order to get it all. And that’s not something I have any desire to do.
So here’s the part I can read:
I belong to a writing group of eight people, meeting every fortnight to share our “creations” and do simple writing exercises together. We have a nominal leader who is supposed to run the group. But he has passed his duties on so that now we take turns to host and prepare a topic for two successive gatherings. This is because of his increased family commitments, which we all acknowledge and understand.
However, he still behaves as though he is in charge of the proceedings, speaking loudly and at length over everyone else, including the week’s host and tutor, who is trying to keep to a prepared programme.
When he reads out his written work to us, conversely, he adopts a hunched…
And that’s it. That’s where the free content ends.
As curious as I am about the rest of the sordid tale, I don’t really need to. Having been in and led both writing groups and critique groups, let me tell you – I’ve seen a lot.
That even includes a swinger who wanted to add me and another member to his collection of cuties.
It’s enough to write a story in and of itself.
After all that experience – swinger and everything – I can tell you that this individual’s issue comes down to two problems.
Brace yourself. Then read on.
This creative writing group is filled with humans. Every single creative writing group is. And humans have a bad habit of not handling power very well – even in ridiculously small doses. It was the 19th-century moralist Lord Acton who famously said that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And he was right. Once we get a taste of that heady state of existence, as the former group leader described above apparently did, we often don’t want to let it go.
This creative writing groups is filled with creative writers. Every single creative writing group is. And creative writers can be a bit on the strange side. I’m not saying we’re all strange to an intense degree. But we’re not exactly normal either. So throw those oddities on top of a craving for power, and you’ve got some problematic possibilities to look forward to.
Bottom-line, the frustrated writer has three real choices at hand: Speak to the would-be despot... convince the group to disband and regroup elsewhere, without the dictator... or go leave and find a new group altogether.
Who knows. The next creative writing group on the list might be a lot better. Even if it is filled with humans and creative writers.