Writer's Groups: Cheap Therapy. Part 1


Three years ago I took a writing class that turned out to be pivotal set-up for how I would develop my writing career. It was an editing class, and for the first time in ages I received “real feedback.” Now, you may ask why the quotes. It’s because feedback tends to exist in the eye of the beholder. When you first start writing, you may show your work to friends and family members. Unless they too are writers, you are bound to get, “It’s just great!”

Which leaves you with nothing to improve, and no room to grow. It’s nice to get positive feedback, but when you’re showing someone a rough draft, chances are that’s not the kind of feedback you’re looking for.

I got "real feedback," which I craved. I also found out two of my classmates were in a writer’s group together. I liked them, and they liked me. This won me a free pass into the writer’s group for a session. When I was there, I found out they weren’t open to new members. I’d gotten a taste of what I wanted, only to be cut off. They were kind enough to point me to some other groups in town. I went to three different meetings of three different groups, each with different meeting places, focuses, and agendas. I dragged my friend Allie along, who was also disenchanted.

None of them had exactly what we were looking for. One of them had a great system for how everyone edited the work, but they had too many members and their meetings ran long. One of them seemed more like an excuse to hang out and drink wine. (Which, I'm not against, by the way.)

Allie and I were disappointed. We’d both been bitten, we both wanted feedback from dedicated writers. Nothing worked out as we’d planned.

Just the other day I was invited to a Geek Girl’s Night Out. It was hosted by a local comic book shop, and it was fantastic. I knew a time when the idea of having a comic book store open “just for girls” would maybe have brought three girls to check it out. Not that evening. There were quite a handful. My favorite moment was three girls spontaneously brought out their knitting and a geek knitting circle broke out. The women knew each other, and there was a great connection between them. Even within the group, these girls had another niche, something in common to connect them.

Let me to segue back to the writer’s groups. Yes, I was a writer. Yes, the other people in the room were also writers. However, there wasn’t a thread of connection to stand on. When Allie and I looked at each other, you could almost see the cartoon lightbulbs going off above our heads. Why didn’t we make a writing group?

Fortunately, we knew one other writer who took her writing seriously, and we invited her to join us. Soon we were three, and we were carving out rules and figuring out submission lengths, deadlines, and starting up Facebook groups and Google Docs folders.