11 Tips For Starting A Creating Writing Group That Works For You & Your Fellow Writers
Writing might seem to many to be a solitary activity, but actually, community is a huge part of being a writer. A creative writing group is a great way to motivate yourself to keep writing, to give and get support from other writers, and to receive feedback on your work.
My own creative writing group started my senior year of college. A recently-graduated friend started the group because she wanted to have a community of writers like the one she had in her college creative writing workshops. Our group has been going strong for four years now, and it's been a wonderful experience. My group has been a source of constant support, encouragement, and joy for me throughout the years.
The most wonderful thing about starting a creative writing group is that you can build it to be exactly what you want it to be. You can make it a workshop-style group where you read each other’s work. You can form a group where you meet up together and write. You can create a group where you just meet up to talk about writing. There are no rules. For that reason, you should take these tips for starting your own creative writing group as suggestions, not rules. Every writing group is different, and you should talk to each other about your preferences. Open communication is a key part of having a group in which everyone is comfortable to share their writing.
1. Set ground rules.
Sit down and make an agreement about how the group is going to function. Consider how you want to handle people not showing up to meetings, how many people can submit readings every meeting, how to mediate discussions of people's work, whether or not you should give each other written comments, etc.. Have a conversation with your fellow writers about what you each feel is good workshop etiquette. Delegate responsibilities to each member, and (most importantly) decide who's in charge of setting meeting time. It's easier to talk about these things ahead of time, rather than in reaction to a problem.
2. Be realistic about everyone's time commitments.
When my writing group first starting meeting, we tried to meet once a week. But it just didn't work out with everyone's schedules. Be upfront about how much time you each have to commit. My group found that it's better to have more people at fewer meetings than the other way around. Maybe try every other week or once a month to begin, and add more meetings as needed.
3. Agree on a method & schedule for sharing your writing.
When my group first starting meeting, everyone shared their work at each meeting. Spoiler: It didn't work at all. It took too long, and most of else felt a lot of pressure to finish drafts before our meet-ups. Considering this, we decided to switch to a model in which two people submit their writing every meeting. These writers would send it to everyone else before the meet-up, so everyone had a chance to read them through and formulate constructive comments. We function on a first-come-first-serve basis, with priority given to people who haven't shared in a while. However, when your group first begin meeting, it might work best to create a set schedule.
4. Agree on a form of communication.
Every group works differently. Some people prefer email chains, some people prefer group texts, some people prefer GroupMe. Our group has a private Facebook group wherein we create events for meetings, post links to relevant articles, share opportunities to submit our writing, and just give each other general support. Talk to your group, and figure out what's best for you!
5. Have hang-outs that don't involve writing at all.
Having a group that gets along is super important. Do some fun stuff! Get some coffee, have a movie night, or go to a reading together.
6. There are plenty of people who would love to join a writing group.
When we first started, we didn't think we would be able to find anyone who was interested. But we soon learned that there are tons of writers out there looking for. Reach out to people you know who are writers, post a call on your Facebook page, or you could even create a group on Meetup. (Though, once your group is set, I would recommend keeping it a closed group.)
7. Make a decision about how big/small you want the group to be.
Our group has fluctuated between five to eight people over the years, which is a size that really works for us. But maybe you want to keep your group smaller, or open it up to be larger! Just make sure everyone in the group is on the same page and feels comfortable enough to write and share with the others.
8. Be prepared for people to come and go.
No group is going to remain exactly the same forever. Don't freak out if someone realizes they can't do it anymore, and create a plan for adding people to the group when the time comes. It's OK to give people a trial run to see how they play into the group dynamic.
9. Find a meeting place that is convenient and spacious.
It's harder than you would think to find a good meeting space. You definitely want everyone to have enough room and to be able to hear each other. Try a local coffee shop with an outdoor patio, or a park with a seating area. Some local libraries also have meeting rooms that you can rent out for free!
10. Have nights where you write together.
Sometimes just having someone there while you're writing is super helpful. Plus, it's easy to just send a message out to your group saying "I"m headed to this coffee shop to write. Join me if you're around!" Super casual, no plans required.
11. Don't be afraid to change things up!
The key to keeping your group going is being flexible, open, and kind to one another. Don't be afraid to make changes if you need to.