Writing and Writers Groups

I don’t believe in writing workshops or “training” or “gentle” critique or a majority of the writing “advice” flowing freely–whether in workshops or books–from those whose main goal is to separate a writer from his or her hard-earned dollars.  Either you are a writer, or you’re not.  To my way of thinking, there’s no middle ground nor is there a method or a formula, an all-encompassing recipe if you will, to give you what you do not already innately possess.

The only advice I ever took to heart was time-tested and true: read and write EVERY day.  Whether it’s ten words a day you read and write, or thousands, ten minutes or ten hours–the discipline is every bit as important as the study and practice.  However, this is too easy, and the price apparently too high for many.  It is also very lonely.

To commit, to look yourself in the soul and say, a writer is what I am, then follow your destiny is probably the hardest task anyone ever sets before themselves.  You will lose sleep.  Your health will suffer.  Your family will think you possessed.  Doubts will have a field day with you.  But, if you persevere, eventually you will succeed.

Hanging out with a group of other “writers” is all well and good, but there is danger in that, too.  Imagine a pond stocked with fish.  They are all circling happily.  They are comfortable.  There’s safety in numbers.  They are also afraid, though they may not even be aware of that.  What they fear is bucking the tide, leaping from the pool, and heading upstream–alone.  So, most don’t do that.  They critique each others’ work, but none of them ever get any better or worse, nor do they encourage creativity or writing freedom.  Their critique may or may not be colored with their egos, their personal agendas, or jealousies. They pay for workshops to be with others of their kind; or buy all the “recommended” books from “authors” who have yet to write a best seller, fiction or non; they do everything they can to avoid one simple truth: writing is a lonely business.  A writer at some point MUST float his or her own boat, swim away from the crowd happily circling the pond to see what’s upstream.  And they must do this alone or content themselves to stay at the same level as every other writer in their comfortable little pond.

A writer writes because he or she must.  No amount of money can compensate for what is or isn’t inside.

Still, I’m not saying don’t join a writers group.  You have to do what you think is right for you.  My opinion remains, however, that most writers would be better off to keep their money in their pocket and work on their discipline instead.  Given enough time, ten words a day will still add up to a story or a book.


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4 Responses to “Writing and Writers Groups”

  1. Daniel Says:

    “…would be better off to keep thier money in their pocket and work on their discipline instead.” Enough said. Back to writing, when I’m not at http://www.bentpage.wordpress.com.

  2. 1writeway Says:

    Kris, I think I understand your antipathy toward writing groups. I’ve belonged to a few different kinds over the past 30 years, starting with a “literary guild” at my local community college when I was fresh out of high school. That was probably the best writer’s group I had ever belonged to, and the subsequent writing groups pale by comparison. I never felt discouraged in the first group, even though I was the youngest and most inexperienced member. We gave readings and published a college literary journal, and every single one of us participated in those events.

    I have strong sentimental feelings about those days, and it’s probably not fair that I compare other groups to them. Still … over the years I’ve learned that one should approach writing groups cautiously. Too many of them seem to focus on marketing, on getting published, on networking. Yes, that may be most writers’ goal (to get published) but isn’t there an intrinsic value in just writing? Sometimes I want to ask these writers, “If you knew that you would never be published, would you continue to write?”

    One kind of writing group that could be useful to yourself and your readers is free, online writing groups such as Zoetrope (at Zoetrope.com). Again, it’s free. All you have to commit to is reading five other pieces of writing for each one that you submit. And you can choose what kind of writing group you want to belong to (flash fiction, short stories, novels, screenwriting, etc.) What I want from a writing group is close reading, the belief that the person giving me feedback really read my story. Whether I agree with their feedback is entirely up to me. But there is something stimulating about getting comments on one’s writing, even stimulating to the point of generating a new story or poem.

    Before joining a writing group, a writer should ask what he or she wants to get out it. For myself, it’s an opportunity to be read by a wider audience than I have here in my small town. And, like I said, there are free communities. Anyone interested in a joining writer’s group should check out the free communities first. Sometimes the best critique is free.


  3. writeratlarge Says:

    Sometimes I want to ask these writers, “If you knew that you would never be published, would you continue to write?”

    There’s the bottom line question every destined-to-be-writer asks his or herself at some point.

    I asked myself the very same thing some years ago. I guess I’m showing, not telling my answer. LOL

    Thanks for your thoughts!


  4. K. Jayne Cockrill Says:

    Yes, it’s a bit of a lonely job. Amazing that we actually choose it!

    For me, that isolation can be balanced by a good critique group, the occasional writerly gathering (i.e., workshops, conferences, seminars, etc.), and an online writer’s support group where it’s less about the writing and more about the life. I have experienced some poor critique groups in my day (some horrendous!), but most of my groups were productive. The members provided constructive feedback (the good, bad, and the fugly), praise for the work I had accomplished and encouragement for the hard work to come — this when those I lived with just didn’t get it. And always came the day when I had to leave them — for a number of reasons, but partly for the reasons you said, that you have to see when that group isn’t challenging you or keeping up with you anymore, and you have to move on.

    I also believe I have to get out and live among the people to write as a keen observer/translator of human behavior so that your characters really come alive for readers. Too much isolation isn’t a good thing. Yes, the writer’s life can be a lonely existence when you’re knee-deep into the work of it, but a good balance can make it much less so.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

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