GUEST BLOG: The importance of writers groups
Part of the reason I wanted to start this blog is because I truly wanted to network with other writers to facilitate support and encouragement in the early stages of writing. I received this great blog submission from Miranda Morley on the importance of writers groups. I think she sums up perfectly what a lot of us have felt at some point in our writing journey.
One dreary, gray, frozen Sunday morning, I woke up feeling absolutely terrible. Outside, snowflakes plummeted down by the bucketful, like some overeager stagehands were dumping cotton balls in an amateur adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Inside, the motionless, sweltering air suggested that my 90-year-old neighbor upstairs had, once again, left her heat running full blast for several days. And to top it all off, I had a slight fever and a not-so-slight cold; I felt like one of those balloon-headed cartoons on decongestant commercials. But at around one o’clock I started mentally preparing myself to get dressed and leave my house for the writing group I co-founded with a friend.
To most of my non-writing friends, this move was motivated by the fever, or what some of them suggest is a chronic inability to prioritize. But to me, writing groups are more like AA meetings than social events. There’s no 12-step program, but if I miss one of my bi-weekly meetings, I flounder a little—I forget who I’m writing to and that I have to keep writing. And worst of all, the doubts, the anxiety, and the fear that all writers face increase when I’m not surrounded by other writers.
That, and writing groups keep me from having dreams about killing editors. With few exceptions, writers tend not to take criticism well. An editor’s friendly note requesting a few minor changes can be enough to send writers into a spiral of doubt as they question their skills, their talent, their craft, and their calling. One tip that I can offer non-writers is this—stay at least 5 feet away from a writer opening her e-mail. If there’s a note from an editor, you may need to dodge flying objects. And if the e-mail contains a rejection letter, excuse yourself for at least a half an hour.
As writers, we know that when our work is altered, rejected, or otherwise classified as “not good enough” we start to feel like we’re not good enough. After all, whether you’re writing web content or poetry, writing is an expression of yourself. The way you string words and punctuation together is truly unique, like a musician composing a score. And when your uniqueness is insulted, it’s like a blow to the face.
A writing group can help soften those blows in a couple of ways. First, suggestions for improvement from other writers are more like shots than punches. Like a doctor’s office, a writing group is a safe environment, and your peers are professionals. When they offer you kind advice about your drafts, you know it’s with the best of intentions and that they’re probably right. And just like a shot, the comment might sting for a moment, but in the end you know it’s for your own good.
Second, writing groups offer you a great place to commiserate. If you think being a writer means that you have to brood in drunken seclusion, you’re wrong. (And you also don’t have to own a Macbook or a Moleskine notebook to write a stunning work of literature, although I do confess to having both.) If you’re going to brood, brood with a crowd. You would be surprised how many times those meetings that start of melancholy end with humor, encouragement, and best of all, a newfound enthusiasm for writing.
And cultivating enthusiasm and a desire for your craft is the first step to being a successful writer. In Anne Lamott’s brilliant but neurotic book for writers, Bird by Bird, the novelist and essay writer refutes the argument that writers each wake up happy and ready to pound out the next bestseller. People write for different reasons—they enjoy it, they are good at it, or perhaps they’re just driven to write. But regardless of why you’re writing, the constant drive to be creative is enough to leave anyone burned out, not to mention the rejection letters and financial distress that seem to often occupy the profession. Surrounding yourself with those who share your call to write can get you out of the rut, onto the page, and perhaps even into the bookstores.
Because of these reasons, I’d like to think that my decision to go to my writing group despite my physical misery was one founded in good judgment—I didn’t want to let myself relapse into discouragement. However, I would like to take the opportunity to apologize to any members who woke up on Monday morning with a cold.
Miranda Morley is a guest blogger and can be found on the following sites:
Do you belong to a writers group? Or a website dedicated to writers? How has it helped you? As a writer, do you ever have those doubts like you’re not good enough? Please share in the comment section below.
Please note: If you are interested in guest blogging, please send an email to blog @ the writeoneblog.com (no spaces) with your blog idea and bio.