Non-Fiction, Personal, Writing

What’s Up With Writing Groups, Anyway?

Writing is so often romanticized as a solitary, mysterious act that each author does for themselves, by themselves. Alone in her attic, Jo March scribbles furiously upon her pages. Shakespeare breaks another quill nib on his parchment as he desperately seeks ‘the muse.’ But is the lonely writer life really all it’s cracked up to be?

I lived in Chicago for eleven years and at the end of that time I only had one “fellow writer pal” that I’d exchange work with once or twice a year at most. I never found a group or a squad to meet up with regularly and share resources with. I did participate in many years of National Novel Writing Month and went to many different NaNoWriMo write-ins at various Starbucks locations throughout the city, but it was that big city, “alone-in-a-crowd” kinda thing. You know?

So when we moved to Florida in 2017 I made a decision to really branch out and see what there was to see as far as more organized writerly chaos. This is what I’ve discovered:

Variety is Good!

These days, I participate in two different writing groups: a larger group called Writer’s Atelier, and a very small, much more intimate Squad of friends who meet once a week to work together on various projects. I’m also a member of Florida Writer’s Association, which is a much, much larger organization than either Writer’s Atelier or my Squad.

Writer’s Atelier is a diverse group of writers across many genres. The group contains self-published, indie-published, traditionally published, and even hybrid authors in between. A wide variety of perspectives and interests all mingle together for the collective purpose of writing. Workshops and events are scheduled throughout the year, mostly with an open door kind of vibe: come as you are, whenever you feel like it.

My smaller writing Squad contains myself and three other friends. We’re at approximately the same level in our writing careers, and we often work in the same genres. We meet once a week to write through a series of 20-minute writing sprints. After each sprint, we brainstorm, explore trouble spots, help each other through writer’s block, and boost each other’s spirits. It’s a great way to start the week and it never fails to rejuvenate my mindset about what I’m working on.

(Another fun thing about my Squad is that prior to the stay home quarantine times we used to meet up at various Walt Disney World resort hotels and find thematically pleasing, cozy nooks to write in. Getting out into the world and seeking inspiration in different locations, sights, smells, sounds, etc. can be so invigorating! During NaNoWriMo 2019 I went to like, twelve different resorts. I had intended to write at each resort once, but I got picky and found that I really enjoyed some particular spots in the Wilderness Lodge resort, so I doubled back and got real comfy over there. Gosh, I miss it!)

Problem? Solved!

You know the feeling: you’re stuck on something and you just can’t quite figure it out. Sometimes you can’t even talk yourself into skipping past it temporarily. What to do?

I’ve found that having two groups of different sizes and focus levels to turn to when I’m in a rut is incredibly comforting. The Writer’s Atelier Facebook group page is constantly buzzing with questions, helpful links, and encouraging exercises or techniques to try.

When I come across a specific question or issue within my current work in progress, the group message chat for my writing Squad is there to provide much more specific feedback or troubleshooting since the Squad is more intimately familiar with me, my writing style, my projects, and so on. Lately we’ve even branched out into a private Discord server to share book memes, chat about what’s on our To Be Read lists, and more.

Give Encouragement, Get Encouragement!

Sometimes you just gotta share a line, a plot twist, an exciting new discovery, or even a milestone accomplishment and you need to share it NOW! Sometimes you’re on the other end of the spectrum, feeling pretty run down and discouraged about your work.

A good writer’s group will be there for you as your cheerleaders, just as you can participate in cheering others on in their moments of need. A single compliment could get you back up and running again in no time, and the same goes for your fellow writers in the group.

Resources and Networking!

Throughout the year, Writer’s Atelier holds workshops, write-ins, and other events to help boost the creativity, productivity, and knowledge of its members – and even non-members can attend many of these events. One year I attended the Write Brunch – a brunch-included event where several authors gave talks on marketing, plotting, and other useful topics. Recently, during the COVID-19 stay-at-home times, I attended a Zoom class on author marketing and social media by besteller Kandi Steiner which was amazing and I highly recommend checking her stuff out.

Other writer’s groups may offer guest speakers, workshops, insight into certain techniques or tips on how to progress your work and career. Sometimes there might be opportunities for freelance writing or other projects that you might be a great fit for. Or maybe somebody needs a really great critique partner, and you’re an ideal candidate. You never know what somebody else may have already come across, so if you need something, ask!

Art Cannot Be Created in a Vacuum!

As I said earlier, I promised myself in 2017 that I’d reach out to the vibrant community of writers in Florida, and in doing so, I have found a writing family that I never imagined possible. Being able to touch base weekly (or sometimes daily!) with my Squad and with Writer’s Atelier gives me a huge boost to my motivation. I’m confident that my groups have my back when I need them, and I know I can be there for my fellow writers when they need me, too. Sometimes an outside eye or ear can be just thing to break through a tricky spot, and both giving and receiving that help can be so rewarding.

Helpful Links:

Find out more about Writer’s Atelier on their website, Twitter, or Instagram! Be sure to check out their resources like the Write Gym, the online accountability program I mentioned above.

My very cool friend John Adamus, aka The Writer Next Door, has resources, editing and coaching services as well as a Discord server available through Patreon!

If you do some Googlin’ to see what writing groups or organizations are in your local area you might find some interesting events, opportunities, and resources. That’s how I found Florida Writers Association!

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