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Recently I was asked to join two different groups of writers in order to form another group of writers. I’m honored, of course, and am considering the offers carefully. If you too, are pondering a group, then keep in mind that there are as many diverse kinds of writing groups as there are reasons for why they either falter or flourish as support systems.
|Burt Gilman Trail|
My concern is that it’s so easy to get involved in too many things, groups and activities and then there’s no time to actually take the long walks that are so necessary to my creativity, and then sit my butt in a chair and write. Do you do that – join too many groups and never find the time to write? I think it’s a writer thing because otherwise we spend so much time alone.
I had a critique group that met every Friday at my house for a few years. They were fabulous and we had a great and productive time. But, we were going in different directions and it was time to take a break. It’s important to recognize when you are not getting what you need from a relationship of any kind, and then to honor that. But, we may re-join again in the future.
It’s also important to develop a criteria for analyzing the groups you join; what do you bring to their table (skills, not food) what do they offer you (I was once told something that changed my life in this area; only work with people who know more than you do, unless you’re just after the social thing – then bring food) and also, how much time will this group take away from your writing? Will the time away be spent learning? Is the group a comfortable, safe place for you to take your work? Do you like what the others are working on? By that I mean if you join a group who writes gruesome murder mysteries and you only like light romance, (and visa-versa) it may become drudgery for you to read and re-read their work. I knew a woman once who, for this very reason had nightmares after her writing group meetings and she couldn’t write. I advised her to politely back out. Her nightmares went away and she went back to her daily writing schedule.
Is the group set to meet at a convenient time and place? If not, the travel time will add to the time away from your writing. Is the group accountable; on time for meetings-producing-learning-sharpening their skills?
So, there’s many things to consider when pondering joining a group. Respect yourself, your writing time, and the other people in the group enough to take these things into consideration before you commit. Have integrity in your decision making process so you don’t offend or disrespect those who invited you. It also does the group no good if you commit and then don’t show or drop out.
Make a list of what matters to you before you join a writer’s group. Do you even need a group? What kind; critique, line editing, timed writing, support…? If you’re writing a screenplay, it does you no good, maybe even harm, to join a group of novel writers or poets – they won’t understand your format, then your story gets lost. What do you want to get out of the group?
The Writer Magazine has writer’s groups in categories, which is a great place to start. Check out their list and if you seek a group, you may find one on their site as well. So when it comes to joining groups, think before you leap. If the support group you need already exist, then join it. If it doesn’t exist, then create it. Good luck.
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