The life of a writer can be lonely.
You spend hours at your computer, typing away. You wonder constantly about whether these words on the screen are any good. You wonder quite a lot about whether you are any good, as a writer.
Your spouse, partner, family, and friends might not get your self-doubt or how to help you.
You make goals, but struggle to meet them. You read your writing again and again and can’t decide if you’re on the right track with your revisions. You want to publish your writing, but you never think it’s ready.
Writers join groups with other writers to make them feel less alone, to motivate them, to provide emotional and practical support, and to help them grow as writers.
Writing groups may be in-person or online. They meet at a regular schedule and have clear goals and a structure.
Our own writing community for midlife women, now forming, is online and consists of multiple writing groups for writers with different goals (writing a memoir, personal essay writing, building a platform, creating a successful blog).
No matter what the format or location, here are some of the benefits of a writing group:
They are a place for honest feedback about how to make your writing better. When I have asked friends to read my writing, most of the time I get back a response like, “This is good. I like it!” Writing groups provide a structure for clear, specific, actionable ways to improve your writing. Other writers can find problems in your writing that you don’t see on your own.
They teach you how to handle criticism, an important skill for any writer who will eventually deal with feedback from editors and readers. Similarly, you also learn how to accept compliments.
They are a place to explore ideas and get a fresh perspective. Other writers can ask questions about or build on your ideas, making them more fleshed-out and compelling.
They can help you network and learn. Writers in the group share experiences, contacts, and resources. Writing and the ever-changing publishing world can be mysterious and scary for those on the outside. Terms like “book proposal,” “query” and “platform” can be intimidating to new writers (and experienced ones as well!). Writing groups can help demystify the publishing process as writers work toward their goals. You can learn about conferences, contests, classes, books, and other resources that you might otherwise never know about.
They provide real accountability. There’s nothing like knowing that other writers are waiting to read your writing or for you to provide feedback to get you motivated to keep working.
They help you to show to others (and yourself) that you are serious about writing. Showing up and working with other writers solidifies your identity as a writer and helps you build confidence.
You can make friends. In our HerStories community of midlife women, many of us are at a point in our lives when we are juggling relationships, parenting, work, caregiving, and many other responsibilities. In our writing groups, all of the women are in the same stage of their lives.
Successful writing groups have members who encourage each other, ask questions, and provide specific, helpful feedback.
We asked Nina Badzin, our advice columnist who has also run successful writing groups with writer Julie Burton (author of The Self-Care Solution), about what her students tell her about their experiences in her group. She said:
“The women in the writing group I’ve run with Julie Burton for four years come to push their writing goals forward, to try new ways of telling stories on the page, and they stay for the support and accountability. Once you’re used to reporting on your goals, you realize how much that outside accountability makes a difference.”
Writing doesn’t have to be a (completely) solitary endeavor. Connecting with and learning from other writers might not just make writing more fun but it might also make you a more successful and polished writer.
Our own writing community HerStories Writers is open to new members. In addition to writing groups based on goals and interests, the community includes online courses, private chats, co-writing sessions, and guest instructors. You can try it out free for three days. Learn more here.
What have been your experiences with writing groups? Have you joined one before? Do you think one might be right for you?
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