Thursday, August 27, 2009

People often ask if I am part of a writer’s group. Writing can be an isolating venture, well suited for introverted types like myself. Writing, unless you’re journaling, requires an audience. We introverts aren’t big on audiences. But a few kind-hearted, like-minded people willing to give your writing an honest productive critique is an unparalleled gift.

In 1992 seven acquaintances connected through my spiritual community came together by word of mouth and a posting in a newsletter to support and encourage each other in our efforts and dreams to write and publish. We were an odd assortment…one wrote poetry, another plays and operas, another political commentary. Several of us wrote fiction, and one wrote memoirs.

We struggled with formatting our group…how often will we meet, how much time would each person have, what sort of feedback would be given (overall impact or line by line editorial), and how would it be delivered (what if we just couldn’t relate)? Will this be an open or closed group (can people drop in), and will we limit it to a certain number? Would we spend time writing during our group as a warm-up or just get right to the reading of what we’d written previously? Who would be the time keeper (and how do you cut someone off mid-stream)? Would we have food and a few minutes of social sharing or check-in, and where would we meet in the future (member’s homes versus a neutral meeting room)? Oh my, how we struggled. The group finally divided into two in an attempt to meet as many individual needs as we could. People dropped out, others added on…it was rocky for a few years. But if nothing else, writers are a tenacious bunch. We survive change. And then we write about it.

For the last seven years I have met with six wonderful people who have become much more to me than fellow writers. We launched one of our members who moved to New Orleans to pursue a degree in writing; we suffer through the angst of another’s pending move out of state when her husband’s job got downsized; we show up in support when surgery or illness takes someone down for the count until we’re back up on our feet again; we celebrate our children’s milestones and successes; and prop each other up as relationships in our life morph into new forms.

Oh, yes, and we DO read to one another. We brainstorm stuck spots, catch redundancies, correct grammar, celebrate plot twists and turns, tear up at a beautiful line of poetry, enjoy character development, suggest and share thoughts and ideas to make the writing even more powerful. I lean on these people to prop me up when mental fatigue sets in and I can’t for the life of me imagine finishing a story, to cheer me on when I tackle something beyond the familiar and comfortable…sometimes to just smile and say, “we’re here for you, Jo.”

If your particular form of creativity expresses itself in writing and you’re struggling in the silence of your own writer’s world, consider starting a writer’s group. Just start talking to people about writing. We’re out there…everywhere. Soon you’ll have phone numbers or e-mails of a group of people who kind of like the idea of meeting in a group, but aren’t sure how to go about it. Pick a time, a place, and notify them. See who shows up. Set your agenda to cover the questions at the top along with any other concerns people bring.

And…let me know how that works for you. Write-on. Jo


  1. Thanks for your insight and gentle encouragement to realize the beauty within.

  2. What a wonderful account and guideline of what it takes to have an effective writing group. I can attest to the benefits of being in a writer's group. This brought a flood of good memories. I miss you all so much and wish you with me here in grad school. ...from New Orleans!