Thursday, 14 August 2008

Write on Wednesday August 13 ... Writers Groups

This week Becca asks ...
How about you? Have you ever belonged to a writer’s group? Did it work? Why (or why not?) What would be your criteria for the perfect writer’s group?

Oh Becca ... yes, yes, yes, how wonderful you are - are you a mind reader? A writing group, to me, is a blessing. Writers are oft heard bemoaning "a writers life is a lonely one" so for those of us seeking the opportunity to bounce ideas, check grammar, tense, point of view, names, or to have someone listen is a joy!

Finding a good group, as you so bravely discovered, is a challenge. I've belonged to three groups, one a fiasco, two brilliant. The key was the convenor. The dud group became a weekly social, as soon as writing talk began one troublemaker managed to steer the conversation their way, on the inane pretext of a personal association with the writing being discussed. Eventually the group disbanded.

The second, was well run, till someone invited the previous mentioned disrupter along. The convenor was unaware of their MO ... the rest of us conspired to have an agenda, a time frame. A stop watch and small bell were purchased, placed on the table, frequently used ... we flourished, the frustration of the interjector soared, telling us individually ... the reason for the format was them ... my reply was "well quit it!"

We were stymied to understand as to why, when they knew the behaviour was unacceptable to not curb it ... no, no, ... now the behaviour shifted, now it became 'woe is me' ... we stuck to our guns, ran by the agenda, we progressed, achieved so much ... the socialiser stopped attending ... Yay! It worked like a dream, we all excelled, got confident, got published, we invariably ran overtime, we scrapped the agenda, stopped ringing the bell ... life-long friendships remain despite re-location. Writing flourished, life-long friendships remain.

An advertisment in a local paper, by a psychologist / writer, sent me to join ... the outdoor setting with harbour views, stone buildingd, jacaranada trees made us think we were in a writers paradise. There were rules, this leader was experienced, but ... we almost drifted apart due to a disruptive influence. This wise leader told the trouble maker, the group was finishing, like a coven we snuck off to the leader's home ... four of us wrote, excelled, grew and got published ... this group disbanded when our trusty leader found true love and moved house. None of the remainder of us had a suitable venue ... drat!

Yes Becca, I've belonged and yearn to do it again ... until such time as I'm able in person, right here is fabulous. Yes groups do work. A good leader is a must, an agenda, a time frame plus an understanding that whatever is said doesn't leave the room, isn't taken to heart, isn't ever spiteful or hurtful and most importantly we're not a counselling group. Ten minutes prior to start is usually sufficient around the table for a quick personal update. A fifteen minute tea break is time to chat about whatever.

A great writers group is a structured group. The groups I've belonged to have never been same genre groups. We were all different, as we wrote in our individual styles, so we wrote on different topics. What a thrill it was to learn writing similarites and differences.

I adore feedback, the company of like minded people, my mind's like a sponge ready and willing to soak up and learn from every experience. Anne Lamott says it exactly like it is ... so, is there anyone in Sydney, Australia looking to start a writers group ... can I join, I'll bring cup cakes for tea?


writeonwednesday said...

It's super to hear of someone with a good experience - apparently they're few and far between!

Lucky you, for being able to have this opportunity and prove that writing groups can be successful. I think I'll keep your post as a guideline when/if I ever find one :) said...

Your good experiences sound so wonderful. I know there are guidelines for running a successful book club or writing group. If I ever have the opportunity to join a group, I will be sure to check out the leader!

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