For many years I wrote alone, and both my word count and the quality of the words I produced left something to be desired. One bold day I decided to sign up for a creative writing course at the local community college, and since then I’ve always had involvement with one writing group or another.
The first group was like being in day care. I turned up with my work, which could have been the Next Great American Novel or a macaroni picture, and I would talk about it a bit, maybe read it out, and get roundly congratulated. Even as I could see other people’s faces crinkle in confusion at what I’d written, the feedback was always that it was so beautiful, so marvellous, so clever. Well done. Well done indeed. I could do no wrong.
After that I signed up for a novel-writing class, where my classmates would get to read another garbled chapter of my first draft, and I of theirs. Our teacher this time was a little more hands on. There’d be something more like an actual lesson for the first half of each session, and then the workshopping. This was where I really started to connect with other writers. I received actual criticism – in addition to compliments I’d get feedback on things that weren’t right and what to do about it. I don’t think I ever experienced anyone being needlessly mean about others’ work.
I ended up following that teacher through three other classes (and I am still with her now): after the basic novel writing class came the advanced, then a Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror class, and now a more informal dinner meet up group. We get together and swap feedback in between mouthfuls of steak and happy hour drinks at the pub, and it’s great!
I would recommend joining a writing group to any writer who hasn’t been a part of one before. It’s not without its occasional irritations, but being a part of a community – bringing your creative process to a space outside yourself, however small, is invaluable. Next week I’ll list some reasons I find writing groups so advantageous.
See you then!