Writers are often thought of as solitary creatures, living off cold coffee and stale donuts as they type furiously away on their new novel in the darkness of a leather-lined study. Though I think it might be true that authors tend to be solitary creatures, introverts who find more comfort in the pages of books than in crowds, there is one important piece of the puzzle that always gets left out of the author equation. We do have a need to talk about writing with other writers.
In the first few decades of the 20th century, master horror writer HP Lovecraft was part of a literary circle of letter writing pals that included Alfred Galpin and Maurice W. Moe. Lovecraft was said to have written over 10,000 letters of his own, some of them over 70 pages in length! He wrote of his story ideas, strange dreams that he’d had, and more to his author pals who lived across the country. What this tells me is that authors will always find those of their own kind, who have similar tastes, thoughts and ideas, and they will seek to share their inspiration and thoughts with those people no matter how far away they might be.
One of the things that’s most important to understand about this need to “commune” with those like ourselves is that authors often tend to be the lone duck within their own family structures. I, for instance, am the only person interested in writing novels and short stories amongst all the family members that I can think of off hand. (And that’s a lot of people.) There are many readers in the group, of varied tastes and levels of voracity, but no other writers. Were I to try to pick up the phone and call a cousin or my best friend, for example, I would find no writerly advice from them. They love me and my desire to write, but cannot do the fundamental things that writers do; plot, conspire, kill, and machinate. For this, I’ve had to go elsewhere to get help. I found Chicken Scratch.
Having a writer’s group for me has been a godsend, but it wasn’t easy. I’m a fairly extroverted introvert, but even I worried that I’d be less than up to meeting the expectations of these writers. Not only did I have to meet them IN PERSON, but I had to talk about my writing which is as personal and important to me as a child. Putting yourself out there with people you don’t know for the first time can be terrifying! But I found a group of welcoming and understanding writers who all experienced the same anxiety when they decided to join. We became a tight-knit group with common goals and a common understanding of exactly what each of us was out to accomplish in the group.
The reason I wanted to share this experience with you is because I think that many writers feel anxious about looking for others like them. Sometimes, they hide writing like it’s a dirty secret because they don’t hang out with other people who write. But I’m here to tell you that writers are a wonderfully diverse and accepting crowd, for the most part. We are bonded through our love of the written word, and through the craft of writing. If you’re out there reading this and you’re not sure if you want to join a writer’s group I want to tell you this: Once you find THE RIGHT GROUP, it can be an asset you will always be grateful for. Your writer’s group should support you no matter what your goal is with your writing. Whether you plan to traditionally seek an agent and publisher, whether you plan to self publish, or whether you never want your words to see the light of day in the public– your writer’s group will be there for you.
One of the things that we discussed at Chicken Scratch meetings was the fact that there was no database or nexus in our area to help writers who were looking for a writing group. We knew of a few groups, but no way to help direct writers toward them based on their needs. We decided that it would be up to us to bring the writers and writing groups in the area together. We wanted writers to know that their is a growing and supportive author community in the area, and many groups are always welcoming new members.
When searching for a writer’s group there are a few things to take into consideration:
- What goals do you have? What do you want from the group?
- Are you willing to meet in person?
- Can you dedicate time in your schedule for the meetings?
- Do you have time to read and offer feedback for others?
- Are you ready for criticism of your work?
Once you know the fundamentals of what you want from a group, you can start searching your area for groups that are open to new members. In our area, many groups will put up postings on MeetUp, and on local facebook pages for events. Talk to other writers you know, and find out if they’re in groups. They might be able to point you to a group that works for you. If you can’t find a group that meets your needs then the next option is to create your own group. This can be time consuming and difficult to manage and we’ll discuss the options for this in a later blog post.
Never be afraid to leave a group that isn’t working for you. Be up front and clear about why you’re leaving, and always leave on good terms in case your needs change and you want to come back later. Finding the right group isn’t a one-chance trick. You can try many groups until you find the one that’s right for you. There are online writing group options, too, if you can’t find any face-to-face groups that meet your needs.
In the end, I think it’s important for writers to understand that the introverted loner stereotype isn’t necessarily as beneficial to your writing career as finding a supportive group of fellow writers who will be there to help make you the best writer you can be. I’m forever grateful that I found the Chicken Scratch group, because they do make me better in every way that matters.