I am a loner and I do not play well with others however I have spent some of the best years of my life in creative writing groups. The last 16 years of having cancer have been tough, but the best twelve years of it involved going each Friday afternoon for 2-3 hours to WordsFlow Writing Group in Pottsville, NSW Australia. Rosemary Nissen-Wade (a published poet and performance artist) started the group in 2006 and I attended the inaugural meeting thinking, “why not”, and stayed until long after I became the facilitator.
Two of the best friends I ever had came from that group. Quirky, original thinkers and very different women who made my life infinitely better. Both were talented writers, one published, one not – but it quickly became obvious to me that the “published” status was not all that important. In fact, as close friends who have produced wonderful novels have proven to me, publishing can be a matter of having a timely topic/genre or just plain good or bad luck.
What did we do there?
- We spent the first half hour-ish going around the group to see where everyone was with their writing. Had they discovered something interesting, or had they encountered blocks or problems?
- We spent the next hour “playing”. We wrote 5 minute timed prompts: from the net, from a book, from a participant, etc. When we finished, we read our work out around the circle (no pressure, though). It was fascinating to see the unique work that each writer created. No two were ever alike, and something about that inspires you to open up and let your internal critic take a temporary hike! We played other games as well – all to inspire capitulation to the right brain (the creative side).
- Some weeks we had a brief lesson from a member who had researched a particular topic the others might have mentioned, and perhaps a quick discussion after that.
- Then we had a tea/coffee break. (!)
- After tea, we would open up the floor to members who needed help with their writing. They would make several printed copies of a portion of their work and pass it around. Then they would read it out loud, make notes and GENTLY offer suggestions, pick up typos, and give feedback on theme, characters, etc. giving as much positive criticism as negative.
Over the years, we learned each other’s strengths and came to trust each other completely.
We found this a good template for a writing group that lasts, but your ideal might be something else.
However, I DO NOT suggest that you join a group and offer your work immediately. You need to get a feel for the others in the group. You might have to go a few times before you feel comfortable and build up trust. If you’re unlucky, you might have to try a few groups. It’s still well worth taking the time!