By Jason Meadors
Not every writer needs to be in a group, just like not everyone needs to have kids, or pets, or morning coffee. (I have all of that, so I don't understand life without them, although it's obviously possible.)
I visited a couple different writing groups in my past writing life, and "past writing life" means I was stringing short stories together for the entertainment of friends and family while otherwise staying busy getting continually word-mired in the Great American Novel.
Let's cut the description of those group experiences short, or my telling of it will be as awful as the experience. Just, they were dreadful. Turned me off of writing groups for a little bit. Like a couple decades.
Then I went to a seminar on plotting and chatted with the excellent presenter, a local author, about my frustrations with the writing experience du jour. She suggested I try a writing group that she was in.
The PTSD immediately kicked in with memories of a couple decades past, one with a guy who was 400,000 words into a story that was incomprehensible dreck, and the group back at that time just nodded, smiled, and offered some grammar corrections to him here and there.
Oh, wait, I wasn't going to talk about that experience.
Anyway. I caved to the lady's sage advice and attended what I would later call The Best Writers Group In The World, which is ridiculous to say because I haven't been to every one, but my sentiment is still sincere. They were positive, they offered sound suggestions when needed, and found ways to motivate each other. In fact, they still are, and they still do.
The group has been so helpful in ways that are subtle but profound. They have led me to self-evaluate my work more effectively, having heard how others view it; to hear my writing aloud (and David Sharp will attest to the value of that) to an audience; to work harder to meet the friendly expectations of others, and to bring consistent focus to the writing task.
While the group isn't fully responsible for whatever meager accomplishments I can claim, the fact remains that since meeting with them regularly over the last three years, I've smashed out at least two full-sized books, am working on another that they claim sounds interesting, pushed out a number of short stories and blog entries, and . . .
Oh, yeah. Remember that stutter-stop work on the Great American Novel mentioned in the second paragraph? Well, I've smashed through the block, finished the book, and it's now on some shelves and in some e-readers out there.
A writers group isn't for everyone. But if you find the right one, it can be magical. I highly recommend it.