Apparently, I’m a writer.
At least that’s what the writers group I go to told me. Well, they really didn’t tell me that. I just assumed that by joining I’d be a writer by proxy.
Strangely enough, that is exactly what happened.
I joined the Arlington Writers group (AWG) three years ago this month. When I started going to the group, I didn’t write (which is, strangely enough, a prerequisite for being a writer). I actually didn’t really write for several months after joining. I think almost 6 months passed, and still nothing. Finally, I read a piece by Terence Kuch and was inspired. This inspiration spawned a NaNoWriMo journey that led to a fully fledged gay space opera (which, by the way, I’ve been informed, is not nearly as gay or opera-y as it was billed to be… though the space part was spot on).
What is so special about AWG? Well, it inspired me to write, taught me how to take a critique, and taught me more than any English class had about writing and the writing industry.
AWG has writers of every level, of many different genres, published authors, aspiring authors, artists, and more. It’s that amazing amalgam of differences which creates such a richly creative and supportive environment. The group leader, Mike Klein, has set up the group so that we have a mixture of critique sessions, writing sessions, brainstorming (flaming fragment) sessions, and seminars (leveraging experts inside and outside of the group). I have never left a meeting without either learning something or being inspired.
What was great about the writers group, was that it inspired me to write, it put me in the same place with other writer’s, and it gave me a social outlet for my creativity (or lack thereof).
The funny thing is, I was extremely lucky to stumble upon a writers group as good as AWG. From what I’ve been told, not all writers groups are created equally.
“Great Bobby, you’re in a good writers group, I’m so happy for you! But what is your fucking point?”
Well, fuck you, I’m getting to the point!
My step-daughter Jess is an artist and aspiring writer. She recently came to me asking to critique her young adult novel (which I promptly ripped to shreds and yelled at her until she cried). Okay, I might not have yelled at her, but I gave her a very frank and honest critique of her work.
Personally, I think she has a great idea but she needs to hone her craft (as we all do, right?). I believe that the most important advice I gave her about writing, was to find a writers group, not just ANY writers group, but the right one.
Many groups will get bogged down by politics and have strange rituals for speaking during a critique. While others are just a platform for verbal masturbation of everyone’s work. It’s important to find one that not only teaches you, but challenges you as a writer. Finding a writers group that can inspire you, and make you a better writer isn’t usually as easy as my quest was (yeah, I’m a lucky bitch, suck it!). But I urge anyone seeking out a writers group not to stop at your first one. Find several different groups, and sit through a few meetings with each. Get the feel for the style, and see if you take anything away from the meeting. If you got to three meetings without having learned anything, it’s time to move on.
If the groups has a website or meeting page, check to see the active files and profiles. Is there a variety of styles represented? Is the group overly positive (or overly negative)? Finding that balance is hard, but when you find that group that hits the sweet spot, it’s a writer’s O.
My writers group has been the best education in writing that I’ve had… best of all? It’s free!