The Joy of NOT Going Solo

RHere’s the truth: I love the solitude of writing. I crave feeling on my own shoulders all the responsibility for crafting a story, and I’ll resist anyone’s attempts to try and share the task.

Which makes it rather ironic when I tell you that the best writing move I made in the past twelve months was to join a writers’ group.

In particular, this group – the WordServe WaterCooler authors.

This is not to say that I meet up with my colleagues for coffee to toss book ideas around or offer each other critiques on working manuscripts. Since we are scattered around the country – even the globe! – the Starbucks club isn’t even a possibility. Yet, in the past year, I have found invaluable support from these new associates of mine, and their very concrete contributions to my writing development and opportunities have boggled my mind, especially since I’d imagined my involvement with these authors would be limited to seeing my name listed among theirs in the sidebar on the site. Instead, I’ve made friends with whom I share an abiding passion, a mission, and a whole lot of experiences. They’ve shared ingenious tips and simple ideas that kick-start my own creative and marketing efforts. I feel like I’ve been swept five years ahead in my career development, instead of my typical solitary slog of a year at a time.

So, okay, you get the picture. Enough kissy-kissy, “I love you” comments.  The point I want to make is that every writer – EVERY WRITER – can benefit in amazing ways by being a part of a group of writers.

The key, however, is being a part of the RIGHT writers’ group, and this is the really tough part, I believe: finding the group that fits you. Here are things to consider as you search for your own writing pals:

  1. Look for peers. Teaching new writers how to create characters, plots, book proposals, and research markets is a generous and good thing to do, but if you want to move forward in your own writing career, you need to find writers who are at the same stage of the journey as you are. If the local writers’ club is all about getting that first article published while you’re working on building a platform for your next book, you won’t stick with the group.  Find writers with the same needs as yours.
  2. A writers’ group isn’t necessarily about crafting your manuscript. Think of it as your emotional and spiritual cheerleading squad and be sure to take turns leading the cheers, and shedding the tears, for everyone in the group. In a way, a ‘writers’ group’ is almost an oxymoron – a bunch of solitary authors who open up to each other.
  3. You don’t compete with your group members. It isn’t a class where you’re vying for top scores. Your group should be a resource for information, ideas, experience and motivation, not a standard of comparison.

Are you a part of a writers’ group?  

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About jandunlap

Jan is the author of "Saved by Gracie," a humorous spiritual memoir about her experiences with her rescued dog who helped her overcome anxiety issues and rediscover faith. She also pens the Birder Murder Mystery series that follows the adventures of ace birder/high school counselor Bob White, who has a bad habit of finding bodies when he birds. When she's not playing with fictional devices, Jan is a birdwatcher, a featured speaker, and the proud mother of five children.

15 thoughts on “The Joy of NOT Going Solo

  1. Jan, I feel the same way. It’s wonderful to find a group of people who love Jesus, want their work to shine for Him, and are willing to share with an open hand to others all they’ve learned. If you’re not in a group that supports you to grow (isn’t afraid to tell you when something’s not working), encourages you, and truly wants everyone to succeed, don’t stop looking until you find it!

    • Melissa, one of the perks I forgot to mention is getting to know each other’s writing! Though we don’t critique each other’s manuscripts, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the works of my colleagues here – knowing when someone is offering new books or freebies is a real benefit to a group like this. I even learned a housecleaning tip from your book!

  2. I enjoy reading the blogs of those in the WordPress group and the Watercooler group. I belong to a writers teaching group and assist with classes. I’m working on some projects to send to magazines, a family history, and a method book for pianists who want to play the organ. Your post tells it like it is. My goal for this year is to get my first rejection letter. (In other words, to send out something). At my age, writing is like a hobby, but more serious to me, and I don’t expect to be paid for what I write. I write every day for the pleasure of writing.

    • The writers here are all clients of WordServe Literary Agency, so unfortunately, you can’t just sign up. I have found many groups online, however, that offer writing support, and I do participate in a few of those, too. Have you looked for writers’ groups on Facebook or online writing groups? That might be a place to start for you if no clubs are locally available. Good luck!

  3. This is excellent material. Thank you for giving us clues to finding a writer’s treasure: other writers who click with our personalities and goals.

  4. HI, Jan. I’m going to partly disagree–or maybe expand on–your first two points. A group of peers is certainly good but not always possible. And a group should be about improving all members’ manuscripts as well as providing mutual support.

    A more advanced writer can make good use of such a situation through learning by teaching. Not formal stand-before-the-white-board lecturing, but careful and constructive critiquing. That can help the writer identify and fix the weaknesses in their own work, while helping the rest of the group. I’ve been writing a series of posts called Critique Technique on cochisewriters.wordpress.com that have come directly from my experiences and what I’ve learned from being a critique/writers group member.

    • Thanks for joining the discussion, Ross. I think the type of group you mention has real benefits for a writer, too. Personally, I find critique groups pretty tense, so I’m happy with going the support group route for my needs. As a writing instructor myself, though, I totally agree with you in that there is much to be learned through instruction; maybe it’s because I critique and teach in my day job that I don’t want to do the same with my own writing group.

      • Hi, Jan. I can definitely see why you’d not be interested in a critique group yourself! Whether a critique group works or not very much depends on the personality of the group as a whole and the individuals in it. Even one bad actor can tear a group up. BUT! If the group, like mine, is committed to constructive critique and helping each other get better, the results can be amazing. We’re seeing that with one young writer right now and it’s a real pleasure.

  5. Pingback: Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, January 17 & 18, 2013 « cochisewriters

  6. That is so true about finding the group that fits you! I’ve struggled with this issue in the past; it was hard to find the words to explain why I didn’t fit with some groups. But I found it best not to try to justify my reasons to avoid a misunderstanding. Very good point!

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