There’s no doubt that writing is a personal experience. Our best work is often done in our own solitude where our thoughts can flow freely without interruption. But, in order to grow as a writer we need to keep learning and learning is best done with and from others. Many writer’s often scoff or roll their eyes at the mention of writing groups. The complaints are many- the groups slow your writing down, the other writers are too critical, or they don’t understand what type of writer you are. We are deep into National Novel Writing Month and I challenge you to participate in at least one writing group or better yet, create your own. Creating your own writing group will give you more control over the environment, schedule, and other members so you can make the group more effective for you.
Inside Higher Ed recently published an article on how to make a more effective writing group and it gave some really good advice. Whether you are looking to join a group or create your own, the following tips will give you a good idea of what to look for in a writing group or how to structure your own.
– Make sure to do some writing together. You don’t need to write together all the time, but make a point to do so on a regular basis. Seeing other people working hard will encourage you to work even harder too.
-Talk about each other’s work. Not only is writing together important, but sharing what your working on is just as vital. Along with those writing sessions, create reading sessions as well. Read your work out loud or swap work with a partner. The feedback is essential to your success as a writer.
-Don’t let your schedules keep you from following through. If meeting in person isn’t an option for the people in your group, there are many ways to stay in touch via online forums that are just as effective. Make sure to get some video chats in as well, face to face contact is what makes the experience.
-Share your goals. Social media makes it very easy for us to share every little detail of our lives (for better or worse). But, used correctly it’s a very good thing. Share your goals with your social media friends, talk about your successes, or where you fell short. Their encouragement and support will go a long way.
-Create a schedule and stick to it. Have regular check-in’s so you can hold yourself accountable as well as other writers. You need to follow through on your end in order to benefit the other members, but you also need them to follow through on their end for your own success as well.
-Set due dates. Create due dates for certain milestones well a head of time. Last minute deadlines aren’t effective. For many of us writing isn’t our only priority. Planning can before your best friend.
-Set a format to your meetings. You don’t need to plan everything down to the second but you should establish a format and some ground rules so people know what to expect going into each meeting. It will help ease any nervous jitters. It’s not easy putting your work out there for others to judge.
-Talk about life. Create some time at the beginning, middle, or end of the meetings to just talk about whatever you want. Building a relationship with your fellow writers will make the process more enjoyable. It will also give you a break from thinking about how you are ever going to meet the next deadline.
Go on, try it- just once. Write on.