Being a writer can, at times, feel like a very isolating and lonely pursuit. As a writer you’re going to spend many long, uninterrupted hours brainstorming, plotting, reading, making coffee, editing, procrastinating, and maybe (on a good day) even writing a little. But the most important writerly habit I’ve learned this year is the importance of building a writing community for yourself. I talk a little bit in this post about larger writing communities, the kind that extend beyond your front porch, the ones you cultivate on blogs, at conferences, or via the glorious Twitter. Today, I’d like to talk a bit about the writing group my dear friend Courtney and I started together this January and the amazing things I’ve learned from our beautiful little group over the past six months.
I met Courtney back in undergrad ~ we were in a 1800s British Poetry class together and I thought she was SO COOL! She had the most amazing punky Victorian style, her fave writer was Oscar Wilde, and she was always so thoughtful and fiery and smart. After undergrad, I moved to London for a year and a half to get my MA in Shakespeare Studies but afterwards I made my way back to Ohio (corn FTW). After about a year of me being back in Ohio, Courtney and I reconnected at the coffee shop she works at – at first casual “hellos” and “how’s it goings” but eventually we got to talking about books and writing. This was at a very difficult “crossroads” in my life (isn’t life just all crossroads all the time?) and it was so validating and grounding to be able to talk about the things I love and to be taken seriously by a fellow writer.
Our writerly friendship continued ~ we talked to each other about MFA programs and writers block and the weird and wonderful things we were reading. This winter, we decided to bite the bullet and do something we’ve always wanted to do – start a writing group! We reached out to acquaintances and friends from undergrad, and slowly but surely a writing group formed. Since January, we’ve held monthly/sometimes bi-monthly meetings, hosted game nights, and gone on all kinds of writerly outings together.
If you’re interested in starting a writing group in your community, I’ve put together a little Top 5 list of things to consider when first starting your group. I promise – it’s not as daunting as it seems!
1. Don’t limit your writing group to a certain genre ~ open yourself up to new things
Our writing group is made up of writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry! I’m most comfortable writing and critiquing fiction, but working with nonfiction and poetry has really opened my eyes to different writing formats and new ways of thinking about writing. Sometimes I still feel silly talking about poetry or nonfiction during workshop (it’s so out of my comfort zone!), but I’m constantly blown away by the amazing pieces our writers bring to the table each month.
2. Be flexible with the format of meetings
We try to do a monthly workshop, but if people are feeling like they don’t have anything to submit, we’re flexible. In addition to our monthly workshops, we’ve hosted writing prompt days, game nights, indie bookstore runs, outings to readings/book signings, and museum adventures ~ the list goes on! One of the main goals of our writing group is to encourage and inspire our members to write ~ and sometimes that means not writing!
3. Create some sort of online group where y’all can chat – Facebook, GroupMe, etc;
Facebook has been a great way for our writing group to plan meetings, invite new members, share upcoming book events, and just talk about writing! Not everyone has Facebook, so sometimes you have to get a little creative, but I’ve found that having an online platform that allows us to collectively talk to each other when we’re not together at workshop is so helpful and encouraging!
4. Find the right meeting spot
This is something our group is always working on. All of us live in different parts of town and have different transportation needs, and so it’s important for us to meet at a place that is centrally located, accommodating to our group size, and has lots of parking. Our current solution has been to rotate our meeting location each month to a different part of town ~ so far, we’ve met at coffee shops, libraries, and various bubble tea cafes. Finding new writerly haunts has been one of my favorite aspects of writing group!
5. Most importantly – don’t take yourself too seriously and HAVE FUN!
A lot of the people in our writing group took at least one writing workshop during undergrad. Our first meeting, we all talked about the things we absolutely loathed about college writing workshops: the requirement that we not talk during our critiques, the fact that genre fiction wasn’t allowed, and, of course, that one guy (and it’s always a guy) in workshop who was always such a DICK. With these things in mind, we decided to make our group as chill and friendly as possible – writers are allowed to talk and ask/answer questions during their critique, all genres of writing are welcome, and kindness and encouragement are at the heart of all of our discussions!
This scrappy little writing group has literally changed my life. When we started the group back in January, I knew that I wanted to write a novel but I had no idea what I wanted to write. Last month, I submitted the first chapter draft from the queer Regency fantasy novel I’m currently working on! I would never have felt comfortable/confident enough in my own writing to even begin this project without this group of writers to bounce ideas off of and cheer me on. Thank you guys for being so amazing these past six months!
Do you have a writing group? Are you thinking of creating one? I want to hear your thoughts/experiences with writing groups in the comments below!! 😀