I’ve belonged to writer’s groups–in real life and online–for many years and in many different formats. Face to face meetings, message boards, email lists and Second Life; I’ve reaped many benefits from those interactions. Here’s why you should consider becoming part of a group:
1. Company. Writing is (in most cases) a solitary endeavour. It’s you and your writing implement of choice, and a whole lot of imaginary folks with whom you do interact, but in a wholly different way. Sometimes it’s nice to share some aspects of your writing life with others who understand, just so you don’t get lonely.
2. Information. No one can find every good book on writing, every great article on the internet, or every helpful resource on their own. Writing pals are great for passing along information that’s helped them, and might help you, too.
3. Curing Self-Doubt. Almost every writer suffers from self-doubt at some point, but connecting with other writers reminds us that we are not alone in these feelings. It’s always heartening to voice a worry and have someone else agree that they’re bothered by that, too, or, better yet, share how they got past it.
4. Critique. Not all writer’s groups swap writing for critique, but it’s a benefit of belonging that far outweighs the time you spend reading others’ work. The better you get at catching and commenting on mistakes made by someone else, the better you get at catching your own–or avoiding them altogether. A group can set guidelines and methodologies that work for all members to make sure the experience is a positive one.
5. Comrades in Arms. The great noveling experiment that is NaNoWriMo attests to the power of attempting something crazy, new, or daunting with others at your side. All the struggling you do to finish that first draft or complete that umpteenth revision is just a little easier when you know that your friend is at his or her desk wrestling the exact same thing.
6. Feedback. Sometimes you don’t need a full critique, you just need to throw out a problem and listen while your writing comrades chew it over. Not sure how to get your hero out of a pickle? With a writer’s group, you can sketch his dilemma and ask for opinions, then sit back and take notes. Chances are the discussion will reveal an answer, or spark a new idea in your own brain.
7. Empowerment. There’s nothing like the power of a group mind to help when poring over the arcane terms of a publishing contract or bolstering you up to make a tough decision like pulling a manuscript out of submission. Again, you’ll make better decisions and rest easier on them when you don’t undertake them alone. Having the insights of others with experience and knowledge helps you see and evaluate all sides of the issue.
8. Fun. Most writing groups are not all business. Other writers appreciate the value of writing for play, so freewriting, prompts, timed challenges, and other ways to play with words are often on offer. Nothing frees the creative mind like play, and it’s that much more fun when it’s shared.
9. Collaboration. Not everyone wants to collaborate with other writers, but there are many kinds of shared projects that can blossom when writing comrades get together. It could be a chapbook of your group’s work, a project you take on with just one other writer, or something completely unique. But it takes those minds meeting up for the idea to be born.
10. Validation. It’s not always easy to stand up and say “I am a writer,” especially if you’re just starting out. Being part of a group of writers who are also just getting their feet under them, or who remember what that was like, makes it easier to think of yourself as a writer. And that makes it easier to make writing a priority in your life. Which is another side benefit. You’re likely to simply write more when you’re regularly meeting with other writers and talking about writing.
11. Opportunities. Besides simply having more information about opportunities coming your way as part of a group, sometimes the group itself engenders opportunities. A member might decide to put together an anthology and offer first submission opportunities to fellow members. Or a member might start a blog or podcast and draw on fellow members as guests or contributors. The possibilities are really endless, but you have to be part of the group, on the spot, to be able to take advantage of them.
Do you belong to a writer’s group, physical or online? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments!
Photo credit: lvklaveren