I have been teaching writing for years and have been writing professionally for the better part of a decade, but I just joined my first writing group last month. As I sat there with other writers, eating fruit tart and talking about one another’s work, I felt oddly jubilant. I had the sense that I had been let into some secret kind of club where everyone spoke the same language.
This feeling — the sense of being given a seat at a table where others care about the same thing that you do — is rare and wonderful. Because of this, many groups are formed around interests: book clubs, cooking clubs, sports teams, knitting circles, and the list goes on. But for those of us who write, a community of fellow writers can sometimes be more difficult to find. Writing is, often and by necessity, solitary work. A writer spends time at a computer screen, pondering ideas and seeking to set those thoughts free in a meaningful and powerful way through words. However, it can start to feel lonely — and meaningless — if there is no one else to share those words with.
That’s where a writing group comes in. In most writing groups, members share their work with each another ahead of time through email, and when the group meets time is spent discussing one another’s work. Strengths, weaknesses, and new ideas are shared, and while I often feel vulnerable when my work is being discussed, I also walk away thankful for the insight that others provide. Their feedback helps me to grow as a writer and as a person. Learning to accept compliments and humbly receive feedback about something as personal as my own writing teaches me, afresh, the importance of speaking the truth in love.
This feeling — the sense of being given a seat at a table where others care about the same thing that you do — is rare and wonderful.
For both the amateur and the professional writer, a writing group is an opportunity to bring your work into the light of other minds for both encouragement and challenge, not to mention that feeling of being in a group of like-minded people where your shared passion can thrive. If you want to join a writing group, ask around in your area, check at the library, or look online. Some cities and counties have active writing groups. You may also want to start your own, and if you do, here are some practical ways to get started:
- Talk with friends. Some of your friends may be writers already—you may just not know it yet. Many people feel slightly nervous about sharing their work with others, but if you start the conversation, people may open up and share that they write in their spare time, too.
- Start small. A group of three or four writers is a great starting place. Ten or twenty people can work as well, but with smaller groups of writers there will be a greater opportunity to read one another’s work more consistently.
- If you’re having trouble finding other writers, consider advertising. Be clear about the type of writing group you’re interested in forming—are you a novelist looking for fellow novelists to meet with? Do you write poetry and you’re looking for others interested in iambic pentameter? This will help others determine if your writing group will be a good fit for them—and vice-versa.
- Find a place to meet and bring some light snacks and coffee or tea. If you feel comfortable opening your home, go for it, but neutral spaces like reserved rooms in libraries work well, too.
- Meet regularly. Aim to meet once a month or every other month, and plan the meetings 3-6 months in advance so that members can block the time out of their schedules.
If the first meeting is a hit, you can continue to meet regularly. Hopefully, the shared joy and accountability will help you and the other members continue to do what you all love so much … write.
Are you part of a writing group? How has it helped your skill and passion?
Image via Brittany Hope