Those of you who’ve been following this blog for awhile know that my experience with writing groups has not been exactly positive. There is one very strong “pro” in favor of these groups, however–I have always met some great people, whether the group has been on-line or in-person.
Two of my dearest friends, Ev and Jan, both came from writing groups of a sort. Ev, a writer from Terrace, British Columbia, became a very close friend when we were both members of an iVillage writing forum. We had so much in common, it was like we were separated at birth! I met Jan, who lives in Langley, at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference, and liked her instantly. It was a fantastic year when Ev was able to come to SIWC, too, and meet up with Jan and I. Now she attends every year, while Jan and I are a lot tougher to pin down.
And how different my life would be without Rick, my best friend from the Whodunit Mystery Writer’s Group! Neither of us attend meetings any longer–Rick now writes plays (his first Fringe effort, Recycled, debuts at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival next week), but we still get together every month to discuss writing and anything else that suits us.
So as much as I’ve experienced pain (two of my smaller writing groups began to meet without me–one because I’d obtained an agent and was perceived to have “moved up to a different level” and the other because I was hesitant about adding a new member); annoyance (there will always be some know-it-alls and bores in larger, more inclusive groups); and humiliation (nothing better than having a know-it-all bore harshly critique your work), I’d say the good outweighs the bad. Writing is one of the most isolating pursuits in the world. It’s just so damn lonely a lot of the time. Having a group of people–or even one or two–that are going through the same experience can make all the difference. We all need someone to cheer us on and hold us accountable, especially since writers tend to approach writing as my friend Ev eloquently described: “Writing is both what I love to do best and what I most strenuously attempt to avoid.”
Tell me about it! I struggle with that every single day. And that struggle would get a little easier with some partners in crime. So I’m starting a new writing group. So far, there’s only three members: myself; my friend Perry, who writes children’s fiction and who is easily one of the happiest, most positive people I’ve ever met; and Dee-Dee, another good-hearted, talented refugee from the Whodunit Writer’s Group. The hope is to keep it small (no more than five people, especially if we’re going to be reading each other’s work), and confined to writers who are very serious about getting published.
So we’ll see how it goes. As Perry said, there’s a little voice inside my brain saying “nooo! Don’t do it! You already have too much on your plate!”, but the lure of regularly communing with like-minded people is too strong to resist. The plan is to meet at least once this summer to decide on specifics. I’ll keep you posted.
Ever been in a like-minded group, be it a meeting of writers, scientists, musicians, artists, etc? What were your experiences?
To bed at: Midnight
Awake at: 8:10
Pages written: TBD
Verdict: So far, I suck!
I have to agree, Ev is great. I don’t even remember how we came to “meet.” She’s a terrific cheering section. Everyone should have someone like her in their corner. You are so fortunate.
Best of luck with your new writing group. May it be everything you hope for!
Thanks, Laura. I certainly hope so! Do you belong to a writing group, and if so, how is it working for you?
Unfortunately, Ev and I don’t get to talk as much as we used to, but when we first met, we exchanged very long letters everyday. It’s a great way to get to know someone well, quite quickly. And yes, she’s very kind and supportive. There’s a lot of great people out there if we’re willing to seek out and find them! 🙂
I actually don’t belong to any writing groups. I live in a rural area and for many years didn’t know another writer. Being able to connect to other writers in this manner has been wonderful. The blogging community is so supportive. A lot has changed for me in the last year or so. 🙂
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that your new group is a roaring success, Holli! The support can be invaluable, as well as the feedback on the actual writing.
The best writing group I was ever in was an online class. Half of the writers there were at my experience level and they were the ones who provided great insight into my weekly writing assignments. They knew what was working, what wasn’t, and often made suggestions on how to fix it. We all wrote in different genres but the fundamentals were always the same. The less experienced writers could sometimes identify weak spots but they didn’t understand enough of the basics to know why it was “off”.
I think that groups work best when everyone is at the same level. Perhaps the group could include one person at a lower level, but I’ve found that a group of mixed experience levels often pulls the experienced writers down rather than elevating the newer ones.
As a corollary, when I was starting out I found that writing courses and workshops were much more useful to me than writers groups because the classes and instructors *taught* me the basics, where as the other beginners like me in the writing group often didn’t know them either.
Thanks for your comments! @ Laura, I’m really glad you’ve found a community for support. Not knowing another writer would be tough, to say the least, but I can’t say I knew any when I lived in a small town, either.
@ Elspeth – oh, if only I could be in a writing group with you! 😉 I agree about your assessment of being on the same level. In my humble experience, people on a lower level can be intimidated by those who are moving ahead, and if you’re in a group where a few people aren’t serious about writing, that can get frustrating, too.