Belonging to a writers’ group keeps me writing. My group’s members have published two novels, several anthology entries, countless blog posts, news articles, short stories, and at least a thousand tweets.
I have been a part of a small women’s writers’ group for about four years now. We go back and forth when we try remember who joined when and how, but the important part is that we ended up this way. This wonderful, dependable, nourishing, inspiring way. Our meetings are like group therapy, and they keep me accountable. I’m pretty sure the rest of the ladies will agree.
I’ll confess I didn’t actually start the group myself. I lucked into it, really, based on an offhand comment my new friend Charlene made after we went on a hike together. She said something about her writers’ group getting together, and my ears perked up and my head tilted and I said “You’re in a writers’ group?” I wasn’t shy about it. “I want to join your writers’ group!”
Fortunately for me, the women in the group were open to adding a new member. Since then we have added and lost people. There are six of us – sometimes there were more, but over the years we settled into this little group, and into a routine for our meetings. And for many writers, routine is key. When I read this piece about rules by the writer Aimee Bender (who is kind of my role model), I started thinking about my own routines. I have tried several personal ones over my years of writing, and the longest-running constant that I am able to identify is…my monthly writers’ group meetings.
So here’s how it works for us.
We meet monthly.
At the beginning of the year we whip out our calendars and set a date for each month. With six women involved you can imagine how hard that is. But, and I love them for this, the women all prioritize these meetings because we are committed to our writing and now to each other, so it’s actually not that bad. Inevitably, schedule conflicts do arise, and we’ve worked it out to adjust for those without too much drama. Not that we’ve never had drama (again, six women) but we’ve learned from those times.
We rotate hosting.
Each member takes two meetings to host at her house. It’s a little trickier now because Lexi up and moved out of the state so she is joining us via Facetime every month, and can’t exactly host. So we are adjusting. But before that, it was an easy 2-per-year commitment for each hostess.
We have an agenda.
Allowing some time at the beginning of meetings for catching up, pouring wine, and shoveling appetizers on to our plates, we then get down to business:
-2 minutes of meditation
-hostess announces the writing prompt
-10 minutes of writing
-go around the circle and read what we wrote
-go around the circle again, 10 minutes per person: progress made this month, struggles/triumphs, and goals for the coming month
We generally stick to this plan, but there can be a lot of cross-talking, suggestion, support, sometimes weeping and commiserating (okay that happens almost every time) and lots and lots of laughter. And wine. Did I mention the wine? On rare occasions, one of us will have to not drink wine for whatever reason. That person usually ends up driving everybody else home.
We can trust each other.
It’s a wordless contract that we have made with one another to respect the things we share during our meetings, and more recently in our private Facebook group. Writing is an incredibly vulnerable exposure of our innermost feelings. We sometimes share our work in this group before sharing it anywhere else. We feel free to be terrible, and that freedom makes us braver. Almost every time we meet, a writer will complain about her work, and then when she reads it aloud, the rest of us are silent with awe because the work is so good. We’ve often said we need to anthologize our writing exercise results. Maybe those pieces would impress only us, but that would be okay.
That may seem like it goes without saying, but it’s like book club. Are you in a book club? How many times have you gone to book club and half the group hasn’t read the book? Or even picked up the book? They’re just there for the socialization. Well, that might be fine in your book club, but after a while, if you’re in a writers’ group and you’re not writing, why are you even there? Sometimes I make myself write something because I know our meeting is coming up in a couple of days and for God’s sake I’m a writer so I’d better have something to show for it.
That works for me. I am inspired by my fellow members who continuously make time to write despite the challenges of everyday life, and we produce! We write articles, blog posts, short stories, and two of us have even published novels! (I am not one of those two, but hopefully someday I will join them.)
The woman who founded our current group, my friend Rina, is brave and bold and recognizes the writer spirit in other people. That’s how we got here. She doesn’t wait until she’s close friends with someone to give it a try. I’m so glad, because now she’s one of my most treasured friends. And the first time I met her was in writers’ group.
Want to start your own writers’ group? This is the basic story of how ours evolved and I am happy to share some of the things we have tried out. Leave your questions in the comments or shoot me an email.
Photos courtesy of all members of the group, borrowed from Facebook and Instagram.