I have a huge heart for writers groups, because writing (as you probably know) is often lonely work, and we need to belong in a community as creative people. Being a part of a group that shares a creative interest is often just the sense of community a writer needs. And sense of community is
crucial especially now, when the world is hesitating toward in-person
connections. In a recent blog post on the future of online events, Meetup.com’s
CEO David Siegel wrote, “When people can’t safely meet in person the need for
human connections doesn’t go away, it only gets stronger.”
Why a writers group is a crucial component to your growth as a writer
Writers groups provide so many advantages to your growth as BOTH a writer and a reader. Regular meetings, even online, can help you improve your craft, keep you accountable to your writing goals and expose you to new writers and timeless work. When others are counting on you to show up (whether to a group meeting or to your desk to produce new work for the next meeting), you are less likely to renege on your commitment.
By networking with other writers, you are putting yourself out there and opening yourself up to new opportunities, challenges and resources. In the process, you also have countless opportunities to help other writers improve their craft. And believe it or not, helping others improve their writing naturally helps you improve yours.
What’s more, scrutinizing your own work and others’ work helps you become a more seasoned reader and editor of your own work. It is far easier to recognize weaknesses and shortcomings in others’ work than it is to recognize them in your own. But as you read and talk about work that is not yours, you will start to recognize areas in your own writing that can be stronger.
What type of writers group is best for you?
Yet not all writers groups are created equal. Some writers crave a community that provides regular writing prompts and opportunities to generate new work. Other writers seek a safe space where they can receive respectful but honest feedback on their work-in-progress. Still others love a scene where like-minded creatives read their work out loud. What works best for you depends a lot on your writing goals and a little on your personality — what makes you tick. An extrovert may seek different qualities of a writers group than an introvert. The ideal writers group for a writer looking to generate new work may not be the best group for a writer whose number-one goal is to finish and publish a first book.
Six questions to consider before joining a writers group
In the 10 years that I’ve led and participated in writers groups, my conviction that writers groups are a fundamental part of the writing life has only grown stronger. But a writers group will only work for you if it aligns with your own goals as a writer. Consider these 6 questions before joining a group:
- In what genre do you primarily write? Is it important to you that other members of the group write in your same genre?
2. How often would you prefer to meet with a group? Once per week? Once per month?
3. Would you prefer to meet during weekdays, weeknights or on weekends?
4. What focus(es) would you want to see in a writers group? Produce new work? Revise works-in-progress? Have your work read and critiqued by others? Opportunities to read your work out loud? Exposure to books on writing and writers on craft?
5. Is the size of group an important factor to you? Do you thrive in small groups of less than 10 people, or are large groups more your jam?
6. Do you prefer to meet in person with other writers, or are you more interested in meeting with writers remotely via Zoom, Facebook Live or another online platform?
Just because we’re writers doesn’t mean we’ll all benefit from the same type or structure of writing group. As you can see, there are many ways to structure a writing group, and different features will appeal to different people. Moreover, keep in mind that your answers to these questions might change over time, and that’s okay. For example, you may not be comfortable meeting in person right now but would like to join an in-person group eventually.
Regardless of your preferences and your writing goals, one thing is true for all of us as writers: we can all benefit from a creative community.
Where to find a writers group
Knowing what you want out of a writers group is a big step toward finding a group that is right for you. But where do these writers groups that I speak of exist?
In short, writers groups exist everywhere. Knowing where to look for a group largely depends on what you’re looking for. Here are a few places to find writers groups:
- your local bookstore
- writing associations (search for associations according to genre or region)
- Community bulletin boards (online and at local hangouts like coffee shops, libraries and bookstores)
If you know what you want in a writers group but can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, consider starting a group yourself. I promise this is not as scary as it sounds. Chances are what you’re seeking in a creative community others are, too. The challenge (and I like to think of it as a fun challenge) is to find where those people are and invite them. If you’re nervous about inviting people to a group, put yourself in their shoes. How would it feel to be invited to a group of creative-minded people who share a common passion?
Go forth and write — in community
Do you belong to a writers group? If not, consider joining a group today as an important step to improving your craft and making connections. Networking. Improvement of the craft. Opportunities to submit and share your work. New ideas and new takes on old ideas. Lasting connections and friendships and strong bonds of trust.
A writers group offers all of these. When you join a good one, you’ll grow in ways you can’t imagine. And, you’ll be helping others grow in the process.
If that’s not a definition of “community” — something we all need right now — then I don’t know what is.
Do you belong to a writers group? If so, what do you like best about it? What do you like least?
If you want to join a writers group but don’t know where to start, please reach out. I’m happy to help!