Thursday, February 01, 2007

Why All Writers Need A Writers Group

We all know the writer’s life is a solitary one. The chunks of time we dedicate to the craft isolate us from those we love, and the collection of words we’ve written (until they’re published) often hover in a subjective space. You love them, then you hate them, then you love them again. How do you know when it’s really working? How do you know if you’ve made clear what you’re saying?

You can’t ask your family or most of your friends, because they will like what you’ve written simply because you’ve written it. You need objective readers, who know a lot about what makes writing work, who will encourage you with what you’re doing, and will be bold enough to point out what is not working for them. You need a writers group.

From my experience this doesn’t work very well online. You have to see people face to face. Some writers have thicker skin than others (we all need thick skin) but writers with bruised egos, or those who think they’ve just written the greatest poem/story/article seen in recent years, don’t need to hear the seventh little thing that should be fixed. You can tell how a writer is receiving your words by their eyes, and can gauge your help accordingly.

With a writers group you are motivated to write, because you want to have something to read at the next meeting. You begin writing for an audience with a face you can see, rather than the invisible subscribers of the magazines who publish your work. You become inspired by the work in different genres by your friends. You are given leads on marketing, and are able to pass on leads to others. I’ve been blessed enough to be able to direct writers to editors who can use their writing, and to direct editors to writers. It feels good to see your friends’ names in print, and celebrate their successes with them; it’s great to have friends who particularly understand what you’re doing and will celebrate your successes with you.

Even the best writers need this kind of support. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien met in a group they called “The Inklings”, with others such as novelist Charles Williams.

My writers group sees each new poem I write, while it’s fresh on the drawing board, and they help me to make it shine. As my friends share their art with me, it’s good to help them make it even better. A writers group is a particular community for the strange breed of creatures called writers. Even the most solitary writers need such a community.


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