Sunday, 5 June 2016

Writing Groups - Who Needs Them?

You write furiously, or type laboriously, and otherwise passionately put your thoughts and ideas into words, day after day, month after month and year after year.  You're a writer.  Maybe published, or maybe not yet.  But you are indeed a writer.

So if you're already a writer, why would you bother to gather around with a bunch of other writers at regular intervals to write, maybe share and then talk about writing?

I have two groups of writers I currently aim to spend quality time with on a monthly basis. I find great benefits to the process of writing in a group:

Motivation to write can be found when you gather around a table of like-minded folks. I have a work in progress, and in the past two months I have only spent time on it during one of my writing group meetings. This group makes me feel like finishing the project is possible, one word at a time if I just keep going.

Commitment to meeting once a month (or whatever interval works for your group) is a commitment to writing even when life is busy and you are struggling to make time for regular practice. That group meeting marked in my calendar means that yes, I am still a writer, even if I didn't meet any word goals in between our sessions.

Camaraderie such as I have found in my writing groups helps me feel connected through writing, which can sometimes be lonely work.  When I gather with these women, we share tips and tricks, we empathize with challenges, we offer encouragement and we cheer each other on. That sort of support is easy to love.

So, how do you find a writer's group? Well, I'm told you can look up local groups on the internet, or sometimes by checking in with your local librarian. When I started looking for folks to write with, I was a bit hesitant to search groups out - worried I might not be good enough and concerned I might not be able to bear the critique process. So I didn't look for a group that was already established. I wasn't confident enough of the benefits to take the risk.

Instead, I formed my own writing group.  I invited other women I know who had expressed a desire to write during our friendly conversations over coffee, or while we watched our children play, or when we sat together at a gathering about writing.  I've invited 6 women, and there are usually at least 3 of us around the table one Saturday morning each month.  We chat a little (sometimes a lot - so much that we now plan a lunch the Friday before writing group. It helps us get some of the chatting out of the way to help us focus more on writing in the morning!) We write, some of us with pen and paper while others type. Sometimes one of us will share our actual writing, asking for help with a word, or for feedback about the flow.  But usually in this group we just chat, write, chat a little more then get back to our writing.

The second group formed when I joined the Winterfire writing retreat offered by Firefly Creative Writing. 10 women living in the greater Toronto area, gathered for a glorious weekend of cozy winter writing with nurturing coaches guiding us through exercises. A beautiful group of writers who made some magical connections, sparking a plan to hold monthly mini-retreats where we could gather, reconnect and support one another in our writing endeavors.  We chat, a little about life and a lot about our writing projects. And then we write. In this group, we share our work freely and offer feedback in the gentle, strength-based style that is the Firefly way.

Each group offers me motivation, reinforces my commitment to a writer's life and gives me a wonderful feeling of camaraderie with some amazing women. I am so grateful for the presence of these women in my life.

So, who needs a writer's group?  Every writer can benefit from joining a group of like-minded people to focus on writing, sharing and supporting one another in honing the craft. Find a group or form your own, but start writing together!

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