Welcome to the January edition of #AuthorToolboxBlogHop! As always, check out the main link for other writers with actionable, terrific guidance on all things writing. Special thanks to founder and generous Raimey Gallant for her leadership, initiative, bracing support for writers!
Before we get started, let me state right now that I’m new to writer groups. I don’t have any great wisdom to impart, no life-changing list of essentials for a writing group, for a writer community, for anything writer. If that’s what you’re looking for, this is not the post for you. You might want to stop reading and find something that works better for you. I sure would.
However, if you do go on to read this, you might find yourself sparked into action, frustrated that there’s nothing useful here, or amused. Everything is material — as Hollywood screenwriters and others have famously declared. Nothing is ever a total waste. Even my post, even if it doesn’t work for you. See, there’s some material for you right there.
Not knowing much about writer groups, I already have learned that writer groups can be incredible. If you are lucky enough to join the right band of intrepid individuals, you could well be shocked.
These are people who know your struggles, joys, sorrows, disastrous and funny moments. They will get you at your most favorite, secret, special core. You won’t be alone anymore in your daunting art. They will answer your questions promptly, with generosity, detail, and powerful support.
Most writers have heard of disastrous groups, ones that criticize and backstab and demean others (especially successful writers). These groups seem devoted to moaning about how difficult writing is, tearing one another to pieces, exulting about the hottest new guru who has changed their writing although it has yet to transform into words on the page. Members in bad groups find themselves under personal attack for what they write from characters to plot to setting to the way they dress. Some writers never recover from bad groups. These poor writers assume it’s them, that they are not real writers, that they deserved disrespect, eye rolls, and useless critiques.
I am now a member in several writing communities — some large and well-established with published writers, others smaller and on their way, still others that are a mixture of both published and unpublished.
What unites us is story.
What we offer to one another is whatever we have.
One member has a book, article, piece coming out? Others read the work, early in development or later on when publication is set, post reviews and comments where requested, spread the word among friends and other communities, offer support as the author wavers and doubts, celebrates, and questions. The rising tide lifts all boats. One member’s success generates more success for everyone in their group.
Someone finds a worthwhile resource? They share it.
A member shares a funny cartoon, video, something that will bring a smile or outright laugh to the others in the depths of creation, revision, space between work. We are human with one another, caring for one another as we would like to be cherished.
Recently, I was traveling and lost track of dates. My daily posts were gathered strangely, appeared at odd times. A member of my writing group wanted to know where I was, what was going on that I didn’t post regularly. I felt seen, known, understood by a person that I’ve never met in real life but who noticed and asked.
We read drafts, offer suggestions, ask useful questions, wonder out loud. We are respectful, curious, and kind.
In the best of groups, members take big risks, in what they write and in what they do with it. The community encourages the risk, supports without question, rejoices that the group is a place where trial is never total error.
There’s enough negativity, obstinate insistence on following the rules no matter the cost or the loss, and bullheaded ignorance in the world. We don’t need it in the writer communities that we create, join, and participate in actively.
Another thing that I’m learning is accountability, participating consistently and well. I make sure that I write, that I stretch and bend and get into excruciating messes, because I know that I need it as a writer and that my group is with me, either in the experience or waiting at the next threshold, urging me onward.
If you are reading this and you are a member of one of my writing groups, know that this is for you. You mean everything to my writer self — and I hope to provide the same for you.
For writers who have not yet found their community, keep searching. Be diligent in the search and choosy in joining. Do not hesitate to leave if the group does not support, does not bolster your courage, does not help you advance your work. When you do find a good community or form one of your own, participate with respect, with candor, with wholehearted enthusiasm.
Writers unite in story — and that’s a marvelous place to be.