Believe in Writing GroupsDo you find yourself making excuses about why you haven’t written, or haven’t been satisfied with your writing?

Are you a victim of writer’s tunnel vision–viewing writing as a suffering experience? Imagine the scene of the isolated writer, hunched over the laptop, playing out the role of the long-suffering, cigarette smoking, over-caffeinated, misunderstood author. Cringe.

Why would anyone want to spend hours alone in a situation like that?

I ascribe to the philosophy that writing is an enjoyable activity. A pleasure. A passion. Yeah, sometimes a pain, but oh, the satisfying feeling when you are happily “in the writing zone.”

I love to use words, recall events, and embellish routine happenings so that they morph into a rich story. As a writer I get to use all my senses to shape characters, cheer protagonists claiming their strength, stir up trouble as antagonists create roadblocks both mental and physical, and minor characters nudge, ignore, detour, and ultimately escort the hero to a timely ending.

If your writing time is a penance more than a pleasure, join a writing group. Being in the company of writers can be a stimulus, providing accountability, and affirming your writing life. I am far more likely to get in two hours of writing in my group than if I plan to stay home and “write tomorrow” a la Scarlett O’Hara. (The underlying issues for this kind of procrastination are grist for another blog mill).

Over the years I’ve been in many groups; some where we gather to write. Ten minutes of writing life talk and then each writer–writes. One of my colleagues in New Jersey calls this group Shut Up and Write.

Some groups were to critique. While I was crafting my first book, Thinking of Miller Place, several memoirists and I started M&M’s (Memoir and Musing) to shape parts of our memoir each week. I supplied M&M’s at the first few meetings. After that we moved to muffins. Soon all we needed were each other and our memories. We each brought hard copies to share. Feedback was written in the margins, with underlinings, and lots of shared emotion along with time for an oral feedback. The Memoir group is still in full force through The Write Group of Montclair.

Recently I attended a group for emerging writers. It was simply called a Share Circle. Each writer read aloud as the rest of us listened and enjoyed. What a confidence builder–reading with no words given in feedback. Just a feeling of acceptance and approval.

Yes, I believe in writing groups.

Next blog: Commitment and Accountability–The Eastside Writing Room