Writing can often feel like an isolated occupation, especially when you want feedback on your writing, or are working on a longer piece that takes a great deal of time. Many writers work from home, and miss the companionship and collaboration that other occupations provide.
Joining or creating a writing group may alleviate the sense of feeling marginalized, but sometimes writing groups can be a mixed blessing. That said, if you choose wisely, a good group can give you the sense of community, feedback and support that every writer craves.
Creating a sense of community: Writing is a lonely hobby. Unlike art, or music, where the work is immediately accessible by others, writing is secretive, taking place in isolation. To me, one of the nicest things about writer’s groups is taking what is otherwise a lonely occupation and adding a social context where you can share your work with like-minded writers who will add valuable feedback. Which takes me to…
Feedback: As a writer, it’s very important to have constructive criticism of your writing. In the best writing groups, your writing mates will pinpoint the exact places in which your writing can be improved, and give you specific ways to improve your style, content and grammar. If you have the right writing group, you will be able to also get insight into what makes your individual writing shine. This is very helpful indeed, for often when we write, we lose the necessary distance required to see the strengths and weaknesses of our own writing. A writing group will give you that.
Bullying: Ever watched Mean Girls? Remember how awfully mean the popular Plastics were to everyone else? Writing groups can be that way too. Writing is awfully personal – everyone has their opinions on what makes great writing, and often in a bad writing group, one person’s objective opinion of good writing gets pushed down everyone else’s throat, leading to hurt feels, despair and writing block.
Feedback too early in the process: Writing is a multi-layered process. For many writers, the first draft is just a placeholder, an outline, so to speak, to get things like structure, story arc, etc. worked out. Yet, this is a time consuming process and writers often make the mistake of sharing this work because they really want someone to recognize how hard they have worked, and validate their efforts. A well-meaning critic though can tear this apart, trying to give feedback on style and word-choice and development. This misunderstanding also leads to great difficulties for all parties.