Lately I’ve seen a lot of online discussion about writing groups and critique groups. Most folks seem to be of the mind that every writer should belong to one or the other—preferably both—if he or she wants to continue to “grow.”
When I first started attending writing groups, I knew nothing about getting published, so I was anxious to learn from folks who were successful freelance writers and published authors. But after several years of attending workshops and lectures, they became repetitive—like taking the same college courses over and over.
Some of the groups hosted interactive workshops. I am an introvert, and nowhere was it more painfully evident than in sessions where I was expected to write on demand, using assigned prompts, after which I’d be expected to immediately “share” what I’d written. Not for me.
Still I craved the social interaction the groups provided. Writers like to hang out with other writers, after all.
So I tried critique groups, but I couldn’t make the commitment to attend every week (family demands) or produce pages every few weeks (work demands). I felt guilty for not “pulling my weight” in the group, and the last thing I needed in my life was more guilt—and more impossible deadlines.
Eventually I realized what I really wanted to do was just hang out with like-minded writing friends, talk about the publishing industry, discuss books we’ve read, compare notes on (but not necessarily critique) our latest works-in-progress, vent about rejections, and celebrate successes. Inspire and be inspired.
Voilà: a writers’ dinner group was born. I found my “fit.”
The four of us meet once a month. We share personal and professional news—both good and not so good. We toast our successes and offer each other encouragement for the journey ahead. When one of us needs input on a WIP, we ask for it (and sometimes that conversation spills over into an exchange of emails the following day), but it is not the focus of our evening. Rather, we are there to support, exchange ideas, and re-energize. Rarely does one of us miss a meeting, although it happens occasionally. More often, we try to adjust the schedule to accommodate a conflict. We’ve been meeting for so many years now, I’ve lost track of how many.
As my friend Donna (who is one of our members) wrote, “When writers are in the company of other writers, be it a dozen or only two, they too sharpen their writing skills and become better writers.” I still believe this to be true. For some the answer might be a writing group or critique group, but every writer should find her “fit”—and like most everything else in life, one size does not fit all.