“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart,” said romantic poet William Wordsworth. But what if you can’t fill your paper? What if you can’t even hear the breathings of your heart? Don’t despair! Writing groups can offer the help and support many authors need. There are many types of writing groups ranging from critique to networking to genre-specific and so many others. Finding a group that’s the right fit for you may take some shopping around. But once you find your niche, you can heed Wordsworth’s advice.
Personally, I belong to four different writing groups. Each group has a different focus, and together they offer what I need to better my own writing practice.
Here are mine:
- A Prompt Group. Writers write and a great way to make sure you are writing on a daily or weekly basis is joining a prompt group. A writing prompt is simply a sentence or two that poses a question or scenario that helps direct your writing. For instance, if the prompt was “The painting reminded me of the happiest moment from my childhood,” you would then write a true or fiction story about it, perhaps describing the painting or describing the childhood memory. My group meets weekly, and each week alternates between a fiction and memoir writing prompt. When we meet, we read our pieces to each other, but it is not a critique group where you give constructive feedback. We are simply a group of writers that enjoys stretching our imaginations and sharing our work with each other. For me, a weekly prompt makes sure that I am writing at least one piece a week.
- An Accountability Group. Having trouble sticking to your writing schedule or even writing at all? Perhaps this is the type of group you need. My accountability group meets every other week. During our meetings, each member sets a writing goal and discusses that goal – and the steps we will take to accomplish that goal – with the group. Then at the next meeting we tell the group whether we met our goal and why or why not. This helps me in two ways. First, I don’t want to report at our next meeting, in front of my peers, that I failed to take even the smallest step toward my goal. Therefore, I am motivated to move forward on my writing projects in between our meetings. I’d rather be seen as an overachiever than an underachiever. Second, having to state the steps I plan to take to reach my goal by the following meeting forces me to break things down into manageable chunks. This sets me up for success.
- A Craft Group. Think of this as an education group. My craft group offers workshops and seminars on the craft of writing. For instance, there might be classes on character development, writing captivating description, the business of publishing, etc. These are a chance to listen to what works for other writers and think about how I can then apply what I’ve learned to my own projects. There is also usually an opportunity to ask the experts questions.
- A Support Group. Sometimes you just like to socialize or talk shop with other writers. They understand what writing involves and can commiserate with you. This is where a writer’s support group comes in handy. Find a support group where you enjoy the company of the other writers and perhaps have something in common with them. For instance, my particular writing support group is for those that are blind and visually impaired. I have been visually impaired for much of my adult life and writing with a disability comes with its own challenges. I find that a writing support group with people that understand these difficulties is a good fit for me.