Considering joining a local writing group in 2020?
...because I am.
While this website is for my content writing business, it's important for writers to just BE around other writers. Originally, I was a creative writer. I started out writing short stories, plays, then poetry, and somehow I ended up as a content writer for my job. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do! However, it's easy to overwork myself to the point where I feel uninspired and isolated. That's when local writing groups come in handy.
If I'm being honest, I haven't always been a good writing workshop member. Mostly just because once I started getting paid to write I stopped attending more Creative Writing Groups. With the start of 2020, however, I'm making it a goal to be more active in my local Creative Writing Community. I want to get back to my creative roots and possibly start working on my own pieces alongside the content work I do.
Yes, I could join one of several thousand online writing groups available to me via the internet. But local writing groups offer several things you won’t get from online groups.
And no, it’s not just human interaction--I consider that a perk.
The Pros of Local Writing Groups
1. Working alongside other writers gives you a sense of community
Writers are strange creatures. Some of us keep strict writing practices, while some of us sporadically jump up from the dinner table to scribble lines in a notebook. Admit it, sometimes your non-writer friends and family members just don’t understand you!
But the members of your writing group DO get you. They understand getting up at 4 a.m. to quietly write while the kids are still asleep. They understand revising the same sentence twelve times and still not being satisfied.
This is a group of people who know exactly what you’re going through, and that type of support is a blessing.
2. Meeting with local writing groups gets you out of the house
I know we joke about it, but writers are seriously solitary. We may competitively people-watch, but once we’re inspired we tend to isolate ourselves to quickly capture our thoughts. This can sometimes lead to a sense of loneliness.
Get to the meeting early and sit awkwardly with your notes and a cup of coffee. Arrive late and flustered, or show up and help put another nervous writer at ease.
Just show up!
3. Get some feedback, baby!
This is the main purpose of a writing group, so it would be silly NOT to put it on the list.
I think we all understand the necessity of critiques, so I won’t spend too much time here. However, the feedback you get from a local writing group is subtly different...
4. Local writing groups help make regional writing more authentic
No matter the genre, authenticity is pivotal. Readers need to suspend their disbelief in order to feel that your story and your characters are real. When it comes to regional writing, that goes double.
Luckily, in a local writing group, you’re surrounded by people who know the area. They know the slang, the traditions, they understand the deeply ingrained culture of the area. That info is GOLD for regional writing!
If your setting is the same region you live in, you now have a wealth of information at your fingertips. If it’s set somewhere far away, ask if anyone’s been there! You’d be surprised at how many members are well-traveled.
5. Supporting a local writing group encourages your community to offer more arts programs
Putting together public events can be a great way to inspire your community to support the arts!
Let’s face it, music and art departments are getting cut across the U.S. While WE know the benefit of these programs, not everyone else gets it. Getting the community involved helps everyone! Plus, you may drum up a few more members who didn’t even know your group existed.
The most common events might be Poetry/Fiction Readings at local coffee shops or pubs. Some groups are even hosting NaNoWriMo Power Hours. If your group isn’t prepared to publicly display their own work--we’ve all been there--then performing public readings of classic pieces can be a great way to get the community involved too!
Think A Christmas Carol around the holidays or read banned books at your local library during Banned Book Week.
Use it as an excuse to celebrate all the things that made you love writing!
The Cons of Local Writing Groups
With the good comes the bad. But remember that a lot of these issues are just as prevalent in online groups as they are with local groups.
1. Not everyone will be at the same skill level
Some members are beginners and some are established writers with published work. Maybe half of your group is pursuing a writing career while the other half is only participating as a fun hobby. The best way to approach this problem is to be upfront with the type of feedback you’d like and be clear about your writing goals.
Everyone started somewhere, so be considerate and remember when you were a writing novice too. If you’re a novice in a group of experienced writers though, soak up ALL the feedback! Use it as a learning opportunity and do your best to really develop your writing and critiquing skills.
2. Not everyone has the same style
In all honesty, this is a good thing! If everyone wrote the same way, what would be the point?
But sometimes you get feedback that you completely disagree with. Some feedback doesn’t make sense for your story. Every writer has their preferences, so once you get feedback it’s up to you to decide how much of it to use. Once you’ve made those decisions though, it can sometimes be tricky to present your next round of revisions to your group because...
3. Egos are real
Eventually, you’re going to come across writers with attitudes. Oftentimes, those people truly believe that their work is the best. What’s even worse is sometimes that person is you (cringe).
Maybe your writing IS the best...but maybe it’s not. Either way, when writers clash it can be brutal. In online groups it’s easy to walk away from your computer and shake it off. When it happens in a group that you’ve come to know and respect though, egos can get bruised.
If you’re the one getting feedback that you disagree with, then use it as an opportunity to fight for your work. Revise your writing so that it more clearly emphasizes what you’re going for. If you’re the one that’s getting push-back about your critiques, remember that their writing is ultimately their responsibility.
4. Scheduling is hard
The beauty of online writing groups is you can communicate asynchronously. People can post work whenever, members can post their feedback whenever, and chat rooms make conversations simple to track.
But trying to coordinate with several different people who probably have full-time jobs and a world full of obligations can be tricky. Finding the perfect time and place to meet can feel impossible, but it’s worth it!
Sadly, there’s no quick fix for this one. More established groups usually fall into a routine of meeting on certain dates and times, but for newer groups it’ll involve some trial-and-error.
Just don’t give up!
5. It can be hard to find local writing groups
You’re probably asking yourself, “...how do I find a local writing group?” It may be tricky, but it’s not impossible.
If you’re familiar with your area, you might catch wind of a group eventually. But why wait! If you’re proactive about finding a group, you’ll usually ferret out at least one.
If you live in a larger city, meetup.com can provide you with several different writing groups. You may even have the luxury of choosing between groups that are genre specific. For those who live in more rural areas, you’ll have to hustle--and typing in “Writing Groups Near Me,” might not cut it.
Check out Events Near You on social media to see if any groups have posted meetings or events. You could contact them via their page OR you could attend one of their community events to see if it’s a good fit. Worse case scenario, you enjoy a beverage while supporting your community.
Look up nearby colleges or universities and check out their English Department. Oftentimes there are non-student affiliated writing groups around. Most Professors WANT people to get involved with community writing groups, so they’ll be happy to direct you to one.
If you like the structure of a classroom you may consider auditing an actual writing workshop--if you can get into a Grad level course then that’s awesome!
Lastly, you could start your own group! I know, it’s a bit of an undertaking. You’ll have a lot of organizing, communicating, and even some marketing to do. But you’ll slowly develop the writing family that you always wanted.
I think you should give local writing groups a try. Plain and simple. And I'm going to do my best to follow my own advice. There are SEVERAL awesome writing groups near me, but I'm forever great at coming up with excuses.
If you like the idea of developing an artistic community in your town, a local writing group is perfect for that.
Maybe you just want to have a drink and discuss your writing struggles with other writers. Writing can be a lonely task--but it doesn’t have to be.
Let me know what your experiences with local writing groups have been like! My goal for 2020 is to quit making excuses and to actively work towards my creative goals again. There will always be another piece of content to write for clients, but no one is going to force me to write that next great poem or novel. A writing group, however, will do nothing but encourage me.
Here's to 2020!