My Thoughts · Writing

Writing Groups—A Best Kept Secret for Writers?

Writing groups

Are writing groups one of the best kept secret in the writing world? Not for me! Currently, I take part in two groups, each one focusing on a unique part of writing.

East Mountain Writing Group

In 2016, I joined the East Mountain Writing group. This group has played a key role in my preparation for the publishing of my last three books. Presently we have four in our group, but we have had six. We meet monthly for a couple of hours and submit work to be critiqued. These in-depth critiques substantially breathed life into many of my submissions, which later became my published books.

I can’t compliment this writing group enough because of their dedication to specificity. Each time they critiqued my work, I always looked forward to their comments because I knew my writing will improve. Also, I have the privilege of reading and critiquing their amazing work.

Over the years, our socializing time has grown because we’ve become deeply acquainted with each other’s lives. Because of our longevity, our familiarity with each other’s work causes check-ups on long-term projects. The coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop us from meeting. Immediately, we jumped on the Zoom wagon for our meetings.

Colorado Writing Practice Group

In March and April 2021, I took part in Natalie Goldberg’s “The Way of Writing” class, focusing on her “writing practice.” In 1986, Natalie’s book, Writing Down the Bones, began a new practice for writers, a ten-minute timed writing practice that changed the writing world. I used this book and her idea when I taught writing to my sixth-grade language arts classes, but got away from it.

Fast forward to this year—during her class, Natalie suggested we join a writing group that focused on writing practice. So, using Zoom, I joined one in Colorado and one in New Mexico, but the New Mexico group didn’t continue.

The Colorado group started out small, with just a couple of us. Then we had some writers join and leave, but currently we have five committed members. We meet weekly at 4:00 PM MST for an hour.

This is how this group differs: our faithful leader comes up with two thought-provoking writing prompts, and we do “writing practice.” The rules are simple:

1. Keep your hand moving. 2. Don’t cross out. 3. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. 4. Lose control. 5. Don’t think. Don’t get logical. 6. Go for the jugular.

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (1986): 8.

In 1990, Natalie added a couple more rules:

1. Be specific. 2. You are free to write the worst junk in America.

Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life (1990): 3-4.

After we have done the timed writings, then we each read our writing. How it differs is the response of the listeners: all we do is listen and thank the writer—no comment, no critique! So, you might wonder about the benefit of this writing group. We’ve met weekly since March, so we’ve become familiar with each other’s’ voices, and I can see how each writer has grown as a writer during our time together. When I write, I know beforehand that I can write “the worst junk in America,” so I can risk going deeper, being authentic! My writing has improved because of this group and this discipline.

Finally

Each writing group offers something different. Each one feeds my writer’s soul distinctly. If you haven’t joined a writing group, find one that meets your needs and then commit to attend regularly.

Are you in a writing group? If so, how does it help you? Share your comments below (Scroll down)!


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