books / reading / writing

Writers’ Groups and You Should Have One (or be a part of one).

Is it writers group, or writer’s group, or writers’ group? Does anyone know?

Just this past Tuesday, I closed a Facebook group by removing all those who were members, and then myself at the end. That’s how you delete a Facebook group if you wanted to know.

This Facebook group represented a writers’ group I’d been a part of since summer of 2015, which with only three members (two who will probably be moving this summer) left, we decided it was time to end it. It was a little anti-climactic; the removing of myself and therefore deleting the group. For something that had been fairly constant in my life for three and a half years, the ending of it…just ended. The lack of drama is mostly due to the fact that the 2017-2018 school year saw the group go from a solid seven of us to three. People move, husbands get transferred, and life changes (didn’t I just write about that?). So really, the ending of the group was already pretty much a given.

Now that the sad part is out of the way (it was pretty devastating last spring, I’ll have you know), I want to talk about the importance or positives of writers’ groups. Or at least, why I think I need(ed) them.

For years, I’ve had friends to send my work to via email and get feedback. Friends who started as friends but are writers and readers, so their opinion is valuable, or writers that became friends. And these people have never failed me on feedback, thoughts, encouragement, and general ‘go you’ moments that I need in the long, often dismal process of writing a novel. With my writers’ group scattering to all places, that list of writer/reader friends to email to just got a little longer. All good.

However (you had to know that was coming), there is something so helpful and motivating as an in-person writers’ meeting/gathering. I found it helpful when I was in graduate school (my class was the academic version of this), long talks with a grad friend at the pub (how on earth could we spend that long talking story?), and then again with this most recent writers’ group. Magic happens in the moment of real-time talking, laughing, struggling, debating, and eating (there should always be food). I get emails, texts, sometimes video calls from those I send my work to out of town, and that is not without value. But in the moment, when a member offers up a random idea and that sparks something in you and your story, or you laugh about something that happened just today and that sends another group member down a path of discovery…you cannot get that in an email, text, or video call.

Writers’ groups can be difficult, frustrating, and maybe even negative. Put people together and conflict tends to happen. It takes an enormous amount of trust and vulnerability to share your work with others, especially others that are in the same craft (and at various stages of learning) as you. The first group you find might not work. Or the next, or the next. Some people might just not ‘get’ what you write. Even in the conflict, the misunderstandings, and again the struggle, you’ll grow and your writing will too.

Maybe that’s all it is. More life = better writing. And life doesn’t happen in just emails, texts, and video calls. Life happens tangibly, with people you can offer a cookie to (seriously, always have food).

(not my photo. taken by the wedding photographer)

© ecnewman, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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