Are you a member of a writing group? Should you be? I wrote for years on my own before I joined a group, and that one formed by accident. I teach at a small New Orleans university, and some time around 1989 we had a faculty retreat where one exercise involved forming small groups to talk about academic writing. By chance, two members of my group wanted to write fiction, myself and a woman from English. A short time later, another English Prof--David Lanoue--joined us, and we three constituted the core of a group that met pretty much every week for the next decade. In fact, David and I still meet on occasion; he’s “Haiku Guy,” from my links.
That first group was a critique group. We shared and criticized each other’s stories, and I believe this really aided me early in my career. The criticism itself helped, because other members often caught mistakes that I was too close to the work to see. But the group also helped by giving me deadlines to meet. The others didn’t make me write, but I wanted to have something to share when it was my turn, and so I wrote until writing became a habit. And this may have been the most important role of that group.
I’m in a very different group today. There aren’t any critiques, but I get support when I’m struggling and I have a sounding board for ideas. The members come to my signings and they’ve turned me on to speaking engagements and other opportunities. This blog is a result of conversations that begin in that group. I don’t believe a writer has to join a group to write. But I do believe that my groups have enriched my own writing life and have aided in my career. Thanks David, Michelle, Trecie, Randy, Mark, Du Bois, Elora, Steve, Emily, Laura, Candice, Candy, Veleka, and Randy 2. You’re the good guys.