I’m now on my third writers’ group. Finding the right group of people, a process that works for everybody, and maintaining it through all the ups and downs is tough.
My first group included several published mystery writers. They’d been together forever (or at least many, many years) and, looking back, they could not possibly have been nicer to me, the eager newbie. But the group included a couple of people who were “not currently writing” and they spent a good part of each get-together catching up on personal stuff. Plus, they used the “reading aloud” method, which wasn’t really the way I liked to do things. So, I bid them adieu with good wishes and moved on, deciding to take a couple of courses in creative writing, instead. Looking back, I could have really learned a great deal from this group! Plus, having gone through a number of distracting issues at work and at home, as well as being diagnosed with breast cancer (that’ll give you writer’s block for about a year!), I’m now a lot mellower about the idea that the ability to focus on writing is not necessarily the most important quality I should be looking for.
After taking a couple of courses at The Writers’ Studio at the University of Chicago, I ended up in a writers’ group made up of people who had been in class with me. Tom, Julie, Stephanie, and Matt were all pretty successful people with interesting lives and writing talent. We built up a good level of trust, a process that worked well, and genuinely enjoyed reading each others’ work. What happened? Tom got married. Stephanie went to law school. Julie enrolled in a low-residency MFA program. In other words, we put the group “on hold for now,” but it’s not likely we’ll ever get together again. I still see Matt, and I run into Julie on the street every now and then.
As I’m now feeling antsy and wanting that connection again, I put a listing in the Sisters in Crime Chicagoland newsletter; coincidentally, so did other people who were also interested in starting a writing group. We’ve met twice so far, still working out our process. The group includes several new writers, including one who hasn’t written anything yet and has skipped the first two meetings – I hope she’s not too ambivalent to come next time. My old friend Matt, from my previous writing group, went to the organizational meeting but not the most recent one. One bright spot is that one of the folks in the new group has a really interesting premise and I like the way she gives feedback and takes it. We’ll have to see how the next few meetings go to see if we will gel or not!