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7 Questions to Assess Joining a Writers’ Group

25 February, 2011

The New South Wales Writers’ Centre recently listed why people opt to join a writing group.  I’ve added some of my own reasons. When you find a likely  group to join, the seven points below can help you assess if it meets your needs.

  1. Does the group encourage, support and promote sharing? Assess the degree and kinds of encouragement provided. Weigh this against what you  find to be supportive. Is the group’s dynamics such that you feel comfortable in sharing your work and ideas?  Or does the group seem negative, overly competitive, or stale in terms of how members interact?
  2. Does it provide helpful feedback? Feedback varies enormously in writing groups. Is the content and style of  feedback objective and constructive? Or does it tend to be overly critical, or even confusing?
  3. Does it ask for active reading and listening skills? The success of a writing group depends on members being active readers and listeners. Do members put aside sufficient time to read everyone’s work? When the group meets, do they approach diverse material in a sensitive, open-minded way? Or do they keep their personal blinkers on?
  4. How often does it meet? Monthly? Weekly? Are you expected to attend every meeting or is it acceptable to show up only when you want? Consider what other commitments you have on your time.
  5. Are members unified by what they write—or by their interests? Some groups are unified because their members write the same type of material, e.g., sci-fi, poetry, romance, crime.  Other groups accept a wide range of writing but are unified in other ways. Their members may have similar writing goals, such as actively seeking to get published. Or everyone in a group may share a passion for writing. Decide what kind of unity works for you.
  6. Can it help members develop a disciplined writing practice? A writing group can help its members develop their writing practice. Group members may find themselves writing more frequently, creating more new works, and revising more substantially than they would on their own.  But not everyone in a writing group is interested in this. Decide if you need the group to help your writing practice or if you are better off getting this support in other ways.
  7. Does it have a leader?
    Do you prefer a group with a leader? If so, what kind of leadership works best for you? If the group has no formal leader,  how well does its process of making decisions and providing information suit your needs?

Does the group have the kind of ‘personality’ or feel that enables you to enjoy sharing your work and engaging with the other members? If a group makes you feel uneasy, frightened, or combative, look elsewhere.
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