Depending on who you talk to, a writing group can be a great place to learn more about writing, or a complete waste of time.
Depending on who you talk to, at the meetings you’ll find like-minded people who’ll encourage and support you, or a bunch of pretentious Noddy-Knowalls, who use what little they know about the craft to tear other people’s work apart.
The person you talk to is 100% right.
The way I see it, what you get out of a writing group is exactly what you’re looking for. Sure, some of the members might not be your kind of people, or have different agendas, but chances are you’ll find at least one person with the same goals as you.
I belong to two, the GSHW and the Monmouth Creative Writing Group. I’ve made a lot of good friends and learned a great deal from both, but after reading about j_cheney’s experience at a recent RWA meeting, I realize that not everyone is so lucky.
It’s not for me to judge what happened. I’m sure those RWA people are decent enough folk, but I wonder if there ought to be some common sense guidelines for how members conduct themselves at writing group meetings. If ever they decide to produce one, I have a few things they can include:
First Impressions count
My old gran used to say, ‘Touch that again and I’ll snap your fingers off!’ It has no relevance here, but the other thing she used to say does. ‘You only get one chance to make a first impression.’ If you belong to a writing group, please remember that the next time you see a new face there. If that person never comes back, don’t let it be because of something you did or didn’t do or say.
Ask not what your writing group can do for you…
It’s the people involved who make a writing group worth joining. It’s the friendly encouragement, chit-chat and sincere welcome that attracts new members. Even if you don’t want to help with the organizational side of things, you can still play a part. Take the time to get to know some of the others in your group. Help set out chairs, or tidy up the room after the meeting.
Remember how it felt to be the new person
We’ve all felt a little nervous about entering a room where we didn’t know anyone. Didn’t it feel great when someone took the time to make you feel welcome? Why not do that for someone else? Introduce those new people to others with similar interests.
Play nice with the other kids
It’s okay to disagree with someone else’s opinions or methods, but keep it polite, and never get personal.
It’s not about you
People notice if you only turn up to meetings or comment on the group message board when you’ve got something to sell or celebrate.
Be a promoter
If you belong to a writing group, chances are you found out about it because someone promoted it, whether it was a flyer, an ad or a personal invite. When was the last time you promoted your own writing group?
If you can think of another useful tip for people, I’d love to hear it.