Joining my first writing group last year may be the best thing I’ve ever done. (Aside from marrying my husband.) Exaggeration? No. Beginners luck? Sure.
A lot of people try writing groups, and hate them. They have mediocre experiences, sometimes traumatic ones, and never go back. Many are fearful of sharing their work.
Others live in the “Why bother” category: Who needs a group? I can write on my own. Yes. That’s true. But without my group, I don’t know if I’d still be writing.
I know I wouldn’t be pursuing it beyond a singular hobby. I wouldn’t be going to conferences, pitching my novel, or studying craft. I know I wouldn’t be here at diymfa.com. My experience has been so good that I’ve become a bit of a disciple, spreading the good word on writing groups. There are countless kinds, local and online, critique groups and social meet-ups. Since this is a monthly column, we’ll have lots of time to delve into those. Here’s some cheer-leading points on why you should get started and try one.
Other Writers “Get It”
“I love being around people who ‘get it’,’’ says author S.A. Mulraney. “I can express my frustration about a writing conundrum and fellow writers will understand and sympathize, unlike ‘non-writerly’ people.” The number two question from non-writers after “What do you write?” is usually, “Are you going to publish it?” Potential answers vary in awkwardness. “Maybe, if I finish it.” “Probably not, which may be the biggest let down of my life.” To avoid more questions, you say, “Not yet.” Other writers comprehend there’s more to the process than “You write it, you publish it.”
Having people understand what you’re striving for lightens the burden of a writer’s plight. You’re not alone. “Writing is a solitary endeavor,” says author, Nisha Sharma. “It becomes a much more rewarding experience if you have people to talk to about your frustrations, your confusions, and most importantly, your self doubt.” Other writers have encouragement powers. They whisper things: “Would you like to swap chapters?” “I’m going to a conference this weekend. You should come.” “Your novel sounds really good. You should try pitching it.” Most writers get the subtle balance between nudging and pushing. A jarring judgment like “You’ve been working on that novel forever. How can you not be finished?” is met with laughter among them.
It’s Easier With Company
Writing can be monotonous and lonely. With no one for company but your characters all day, the three-foot circle around your laptop can become a self-imposed torture chamber. In college, I went to a music school with practice rooms in the dorm basement. The noise echoed through the duct work like a telephone wire into our rooms. At any hour you could be forced to hear glass-breaking sopranos or blaring trumpet calls. We complained about it nightly. But as soon as I moved out, I missed it.
The constant company of creative artists had been like sailing with the wind at my back. Trying to practice when no one cared made it more like a Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz twister. Everyone disappeared into the storm cellar while the wind knocked out my bedroom window and nailed me unconscious. No amount of Toto barking could save me from the burn out.
Writers groups don’t live in your basement, but they might sit with you in a storm cellar. Whether in a group meeting or an online forum, someone will ask, “How’s your week?” And they don’t mean “Did you survive work?” They mean, “Were you able to squeeze in any writing time?” “I know that every week, no matter what, some writing will get done,” says Richenda Gould, leader of the Princeton Writers Group. “It keeps my writing in my thoughts, which means I’m always working on it while it percolates. Being in a group keeps me working, and that is worth gold.”
They Might Change Your Life
“Joining a writing group is like joining a community, a family. Your deepest fears and your greatest passion are shared with a group of like-minded individuals who share a common purpose and a common goal,” says Nisha Sharma. ‘A writing family’, definitely. I call them my writing support group. When a person understands why I write, I feel validated. Without my weekly check-ins with my writer peeps, I convince myself that my writing is ‘child’s play,’ that spending hours everyday typing words based on people living inside my head is a therapeutic delusion.
Other writers get why I slog at my keyboard. They remind me that despite its lack of monetary earnings, my writing is the most valuable time I spend each week because it’s time spent with me. Give yourself a New Year’s gift and try meeting with other writers. Later we’ll talk about how to find a group or even start one. Begin with trusty Google or your local library. And if you’ve tried before and didn’t like it, be brave and try again. Share with us your experiences, good and bad. Maybe you’ll get lucky like me and find people who believe in your writing more than you ever thought possible.
Robin Lovett, also known as S.A. Lovett, writes contemporary romance, and her debut novel, Racing To You, will be released July of 2016. She is represented by Rachel Brooks of the L. Perkins Agency and has a forthcoming series releasing with SMP Swerve in the summer of 2017.
She writes romance to avoid the more unsavory things in life, like day jobs and housework. To feed her coffee and chocolate addictions, she loves overdosing on mochas. When not writing with her cat, you can find her somewhere in the outdoors with a laptop in her bag. Feel free to chat with her on Twitter.