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Why I Joined A Writing Group

I’ve started a writing group. We met for the first time last night for an organizational meeting. Yeah, yeah, I know. Back when I stepped down...

I’ve started a writing group. We met for the first time last night for an organizational meeting.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Back when I stepped down from the PTA (a full month and a half ago!), I vowed that I’d take a break from organizing things. So much for that.

But this is different. First of all, it’s only five people. And second of all – unlike the PTA, which was loads of fun but fundamentally about raising money for a cause – this one’s about me. I’m doing it for precisely the same reason that I encouraged all of you to join a club this Autumn: pursuing hobbies in adulthood is fun.

Of course, I’m not only doing it because it’s fun. I’m also doing it because I think that it’s going to be worthwhile professionally. Why is that?

For starters, the people in the group aren’t close friends. I know all of them socially, but what links me to them first and foremost is that we all share an interest in writing. (Most of us are interested in pursuing fiction within the confines of this group, though there’s one TV/Film writer.)

And that means that while it’s a friendly crowd, we’re not there to chit-chat about our lives. We’re there to get feedback on our work. So unlike, say, a book club, which is – at the end of the day – a fundamentally social experience, this club feels more serious. And that suits me just fine right now.

I’m also joining this group because I think that as a writer, working across genres really helps you to stay fresh. You exercise different parts of your brain. You get out of your comfort zone. You keep yourself from getting bored. I was thinking about this yesterday when I happened to be working on two different projects that took me away from my ordinary blogging duties. One was a travel piece and the other was an interview that I did for a commercial outlet. At the end of the day, I felt really refreshed. And I think that’s because I stepped away from my routine. So I’m hoping that by adding some fiction writing back into the mix, I’ll continue to keep myself crisp as a writer.

But mostly I’m doing this because I need to confront the beast. (That would be my novel…you know, the proverbial one that sits in a drawer somewhere, only to be very occasionally dusted off and sent out to greet the world?) It’s time for a fourth down, kick-0r-stick moment with that sucker. (Forgive the cheesy football analogies. I think we all know that sports isn’t my thing.) Either I’m going to go back to the drawing board, and use this writing group as way to workshop the hell out of that thing…or I’m going to have a fancy new footrest as I embark on some new ideas. Either way, it’s time to make a move.

Wish me luck.

How do you keep yourself fresh at work?

*****

For those who are interested, here’s a piece I wrote for Politics Daily on how some people in Germany seem to be forgetting the Holocaust.

Image: Writing Challenge by Starbuck Guy via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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  1. Erin November 9, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    Good for you Delia. You never know when or where inspiration strikes but if you surround yourself with likeminded folks something is bound to happen. Good luck. Keep us posted! I expect to see you on the NY Times bestseller list in 2012

  2. Michael Maupin November 9, 2010 at 6:10 pm #

    The social aspect of writers groups, and as Erin says, the surprise of inspiration in a group of likeminded others, can be beneficial to writers spending too much time “in their heads.” However, I’d caution you on a couple things about writers’ groups: Set up some ground rules. How will feedback be offered? How will you deal with strong personalities who hog the conversation? How will you deal with people too shy to add to the conversation? What will the group consider “constructive criticism” and what is out-of-bounds? I’d been a member of two different writers’ groups and found both draining and unproductive. But I think if you lay down clear rules and boundaries, encourage the shy and deal effectively with naysayers, you can get a lot out of it. Just remember, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, you’re just not obligated to accept it.

  3. Kristen @ Motherese November 9, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    I would love to join a writing group and I admire your commitment in starting one. Hey, is there any room in yours? – though I suspect the commute from Ohio to the UK would get unwieldy after a few meetings…

  4. jelillie November 9, 2010 at 8:01 pm #

    I’m with Michael on this one Delia! As a pastor and a writer I have been involved in many small group situations and the one thing I always look for before joining or starting a group is the “10 commandments” so to speak. A group agreement on accepted and unaccepted behavior is essential. For instance:

    What are the attendance requirements? I have found writers to be terribly undercommitted when it comes to group events.

    If your group is going to read each other’s work for critique away from the group what are the privacy expectations?

    How is feed back to be given in the group setting?

    That said I love our writer’s group. It’s been a great help to me. I have actually now finished the first draft of my novel!

  5. Daryl Boylan November 9, 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    As for previous comments on the writers’ group blog, the points about setting guidelines as to how discussions and/or criticism are handled, I both agree with the warnings & support the group idea; after all, most professional writers (not all!) have been wont to be at least informally members of groups.
    As for the Germany piece in PD, no country is immune to hate-fear groups, certainly not the US. BUT: Germany does have the most unhappy history of this, so I think (hope?) that most Germans are only too well aware of the risk.

  6. delialloyd November 9, 2010 at 10:34 pm #

    thanks everybody. good points about being cautious from michael and jellilie…must revisit ground rule at next meeting. hopefully, with just 5 of us, it will be easy to manage but I take your points – we need to manage it carefully. I’ll keep you all posted!

  7. Lisa November 10, 2010 at 2:52 am #

    I was just saying, a few days ago, that I’m ready for a writing group. So I completely understand. Good luck. Enjoy.

  8. Elizabeth November 10, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    Oh that sounds just fantastic.

    For now, blogging is about all I can handle, but I will definitely file away the writing group concept for my future when I don’t have very young children.

    I am kind of assuming that your (and other) writing group(s) are women and men, not limited to women (or men) as many book clubs are. Yes? No? Thoughts? Just curious.

    • delialloyd November 10, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

      @Elizabeth – this one is men and women. And I’m happy about that…my book group is only women and that’s fine tho i’ve always thought that it would be fun to do a co-ed one of those too.

      definitely wait till your kids are older-there is always more time!

  9. Hilary November 10, 2010 at 7:14 pm #

    Hi Delia .. it will be interesting to hear your progress and I look forward to reading that dusty old manuscript at some stage .. your group sounds pretty serious – so my guess you’ll benefit a lot, as will they – as you’re all writers already .. good project – Hilary

  10. delialloyd November 10, 2010 at 9:45 pm #

    thanks hilary. I hope that it is serious-or at least semi-serious. I think we’ve all at least written a manuscript, so that puts over some sort of threshold. We’ll see how it goes!

  11. lisa@notesfromafrica November 26, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    About your Politics Daily piece re: The Holocaust. Besides the fact that the Germans should never forget, I had hoped that others might learn from this too. Judging by the more recent genocides (The Balkans, Rwanda etc)is seems nobody has. Any nation is capable of evil.

  12. Cecilia December 1, 2010 at 1:54 am #

    Good for you, Delia. I joined 2 on line writing classes these last couple of years which are a little different but both led me to some wonderfully talented and supportive fellow writers. I’d always been curious about how hard it would be to share writing face-to-face but you don’t strike me as someone who’d be overly shy (I mean that in a good way) ;-) Good luck and keep us posted. Can’t wait to meet you on your book tour!

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