A few years back when I first got into writing as a career choice, I started a writing group with a couple of my friends who also wrote in the speculative genre. They were writers who wanted to publish and become authors, I thought, originally, that it was perfect. There couldn’t be anything wrong with having a group of writing friends all with the same goal or end game in mind.
But then we got started, and it became very apparent that even though we had the same goals in mind, and things fell apart. One person rarely showed up, and when they did it, was obvious that the pressure of reading their work out loud was too much for them, so their reading and critiquing wasn’t anything more than ‘I like that’ or ‘It’s good’. They weren’t committed to reaching the end, so their lack of care showed when they did. The other person had the ‘only person in the room’ syndrome where their stories and words were perfect and there was nothing they could learn from us. They were there to teach. To show us measly amateurs the way. So, often times, critiques given to them were shut down with a backhanded insult or just out right ignored.
This group did not help me grow as a writer, and after a time, I called it quits on them and their ways in search of a better community of writers who were committed to growing and helping others without flaunting or down putting.
In the past four years, I’ve joined three writing groups and attended them almost religiously in hopes of finding my herd of writers that saw writing and the future of their career in the same way that I did. Which I know is asking a lot, but I think working with writers who are SERIOUS about their craft and work and are also open to other writers is fundamental to growing as a writing professional. That’s why places like Clarion/West, Taos Toolbox, Odyssey, and MFA programs around the world exist.
Today, I put a post on Reddit, reaching out to other speculative fiction writers in my area to form a group, supporting each other along the way. There was interest shown, and we’re in talks of meeting up this Friday at a grocery store to meet and critique. I’m excited and nervous because writing-good, arresting writing is personal and deep and sometimes scary to share and hear that it isn’t as good as you think.
This could all go to hell and turn into another bad pairing of talents, but I hope that it won’t, and it’ll grow into something like each of the writers who will attend.
When working with other writers and guiding them through creating a creative life, I always tell them to join a group, and if they can’t find one, to make one themselves by reaching out to others in their community.
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