One of these days you will have to give serious thought of joining a writer’s group. The idea can be a scary thing and don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s a huge step to make. It takes a lot of courage but it’s a step forward and in the end you’ll be happy you did but most of all you will be proud of the step you made.
Writing groups are an important part of a writer’s life. They give you valuable feedback, a chance to bond with other writers and a perfect excuse to get out of the house.
A group may meet in a member’s home, a bookstore or a secluded room adjacent to an apartment complex complete with a mini kitchen, a couch and a vintage 1996 TV/VCR comb. Trust me, I’m not making that up.
If you’re new to a group the challenge is presenting your work. I use the word challenge when I could easily use the word horror. I once read that speaking in front of an audience is one of our greatest fears. If that’s true I have sneaking hunch handing your work over to a group of fellow writers comes a close second.
Thinking back to my first experience the hardest part was the silence. That dreadful moment before the first person speaks. I remember doing my best to study their faces and failing miserably. The hair on the back of my neck started to do strange things, I was feeling defensive and I’m pretty sure I forgot to breath. Thankfully I took a deep breath and avoided an embarrassing blackout.
One of the hardest things a writer must do is listen. When you think about it listening is a struggle for all of us. We want everyone to hear our thoughts not theirs and if they would only stop talking they’d hear it, damn it!
But if a writer wants to take full advantage of a group they have to learn how to listen and sometimes it requires listening to things you do not want to hear. It requires training yourself to shut off the emotion switch and concentrate on every word. If you do it enough you will be able to pick up a handful of important feedback. You will be able to detect if it all comes down to the writer is simply not your reader. One the other hand a writer may highlight sentences or paragraphs that drag or confuse. Teach yourself to listen and it will take your writing to another level.
The bad and ugly
For all the positives a writer’s group can be sadly there are bad ones in the mix. On one hand you have a chance of connecting with talented people, making gobs of friends and networking. But sometimes a bad egg is tossed into the mix. There’s the intimidator, the egomaniac and the Sci-Fi junkie who snaps and snarls at anything less than Sci-Fi. Sorry Star War fans, sometimes we just want a romantic comedy here on Earth.
The challenge is finding the right fit and if you live in a town where writing groups are slim pickings a perfect fit is not a guarantee. If there aren’t any in your town or the ones available aren’t your thing there are two ways of handling this. One is to create your own group or two find one on-line.
I’ve been pretty lucky with the group’s I’ve been in. Nothing is perfect but I made the most of it. I found my editor in a group and the payoff was huge. I also belong to an on-line site – Scribophile – you need to pay to join but it is excellent. I would highly suggest you take a look.
Find a group. The sooner the better
No matter what you do sooner or later a writers group will be in your future. The feedback, the friends, even the bickering are worth. Yes, I said bickering. It does happen. After a while the group becomes a family. You have the quiet one, the loud one and the funny one. Most of all it builds your confidence, it teaches you and as I mentioned above you learn how to listen. So go out there and find yourself a group. You are now a professional and this is the first step.
Good Luck and Happy Writing!!!!!