Being a writer can be a rather solitary affair – just you and a page or a screen to fill with words that need to somehow evoke a response in others, ideally the response you were aiming for! However, creating or joining a writing group can really benefit all writers – amateur or established – by offering the following positives:
Support and encouragement
All good writing groups should offer support and encouragement as standard. Sharing any piece of writing, from pressing ‘send’ to public readings is nerve racking. It never gets easier! Therefore, having a safe, supportive environment in which to vocalise ideas, read excerpts and receive feedback is extremely beneficial for any writer.
Reading flash fiction and poetry aloud at my writer’s group has done wonders for my writing confidence. Despite a hammering heart and underlying terror at being asked to leave the group the first time I shared my writing, I am now able to confidently discuss my own pieces in a collaborative and constructive way, always as grateful for the suggestions as the praise. I also feel more able to make suggestions to other members of the group about their writing, which can sometimes be harder to do face-to-face – as a professional editor, virtual comments and suggested changes are definitely easier!
My writing group is small and I love that. The dynamics of the group work well and I would worry about the intimacy suffering if the group became too large. However, although the group itself is small, there are still networking opportunities to be had! In our group there are two published authors, several writing competition winners and two members who write for others as well as themselves (one of which is me!). All these achievements bring with them great knowledge of different writing and publishing processes, connections to other writers and publishing/illustration professionals, and attendance at book launches and book fairs – if you’re lucky!
Joining a writing group has inspired me to dig out all the stories and poems I wrote for my creative writing degree, as well as older stories and poems I wrote in my teens and twenties. I am in the process of editing and repurposing it all for competitions and other exciting ventures I am planning. I am also devoting time each week to writing new stories, blogs and poems – one of which was a winning pitch in a recent business meeting! Suddenly, I am fired up again after all these years of neglecting writing for pleasure (and potentially profit) and it is all due to my writing group!
Another extremely happy consequence of being a member of a writing group is all the book talk! Reviews, reflections and recommendations are fantastic inspiration for writers (who are usually fanatical readers too).
The agenda for every one of our meetings includes sharing details of upcoming writing competitions. Several of our members have been shortlisted for and/or won quite a few competitions, including the annual Val Wood prize (now closed for 2018)! I recently entered two of my own poems into Forward Poetry competitions myself and have subscribed to a few other sites which run or list writing competitions, including The National Poetry Library, The Big List of Writing Competitions by Neon Books, Creative Writing Ink, The Writer’s Academy and Christopher Fielden. There are also blogs which feature competitions listed month by month if you prefer a bitesize format, and Rupert Dastur from TSS Publishing frequently tweets writing competition related content.
Without a doubt, joining a writing group has motivated me to write even more! Being surrounded and encouraged by fellow published authors and competition winners (some several times over!) has made me very conscious of pulling my own weight in the writing stakes – in a positive, creative way. I want to be able to bring fresh, quality writing to share each week, I want to be able to announce a competition shortlist or win, I want the joy of seeing my own writing covering pages and pages of crisp, white paper, bound between the beautifully designed cover of a physical book – even as a ghostwriter initially! A writing group that inspires, encourages and motivates you to be a better writer is truly a wonderful thing!
If you are thinking about finding/joining/creating a writing group, it may be worth investigating these avenues to help discover the right one for you:
Local community spaces/publications/fairs
Word of mouth
If you are already a member of a writing group and looking for new members, let everyone know where and when to find you so they can experience the benefits of a writing group too!