Overcoming a fear of writers’ groups

Last night, with some trepidation, I attended my very first EVER writers’ group.  I’d say it has been nearly two years since I started flirting with the idea of joining such a group, knowing that deep down it would be greatly beneficial to my writing.  But rather than having high ideas of sipping tea with my pinky in the air, smiling coyly as this fictitious group of intellectuals throw their heads back in laughter at my quick witted genius as a writer, I kept terrorising myself with the following hypothetical scenarios:

a) Enter scene.  Group of teenage emos stare back at me (as best as they can considering the matted down hair that covers the majority of their central and peripheral vision), growl slightly under their breath and shift in their tight jeans before continuing their discussion over their latest compilation of pain induced narcissistic poetry.  I spend the meeting acutely aware of not making any sudden movements in fear I might be stabbed with a black biro.

b) Enter scene.  Group of young hip creatives welcome me to their spiritual endeavour to enhance their writing through intense meditation and prayer.  They smile a lot more than could be considered humanly reasonable and offer only encouragement, love and positive energy to every piece of overindulged prose that enters the room.  My short story on death is less than well received and I am assured by said group that as I read, the room became darker and negativity sparked across the walls.  I sit quietly amidst suspicious stares wondering if I’m a diabolical sinner.  I also frown a lot at the lights, cheeky buggers.

c)  Enter scene.  Group of high end novelists, script writers and multi-published authors look me up and down over the rims of their D&G glasses, before resuming talk over their latest book release parties and the celebrity guests that were rude enough not to rsvp.  They scoff impertinently at my lack of writing credentials and squint their eyes at me when I tell them I have not been paid for anything I’ve had published, as if they distrust me and the low end scum I’ve obviously been associating with.  I go home and burn everything I’ve ever written.

As you can see, I was fairly tormented by these visions.  Essentially it came down to wanting to fit into a group of like minded people.  I wanted feedback on my writing, but only positive feedback when it was warranted.  I wanted constructive criticism, but not so much as to be discouraged to never write again.  And I wanted to benefit from a group of people with more experience than me, but also be able to help those with less experience, and share hardships and success with those at a similar stage in their writing endeavours.

So terrorised and all, I grew some proverbial balls and decided that if I was serious about all this writing business, it was time to stop dipping my toes in the water and just dive in.  So I did.  And boy am I lucky I did.  Last night I met some of the most interesting, intelligent and varied group of people/writers I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  As we all introduced ourselves I was inspired by their experiences and their success, their sincerity and their enthusiasm.  Everyone was there for a different reason, but all were there to improve their writing, share their experience and be a part of a group of like minded people.  Jess, Ralph, Fiona, Peter, Marjorie, Josie, Penny, Chris, Liz and Ian, thank you for welcoming me to your group with open arms, for the support you offer each other in your writing aspirations, and for firmly squashing my comical fear of joining a writers’ group.  I can’t wait for the next meeting.

If any one is considering joining a writers group I would recommend just giving it a go.  Some of the larger towns have many to choose from, but you can usually (at least in Australia) track them down by joining your state or local Writers’ Centre.  The Tasmanian Writers’ Centre was where I found this little gem of a group listed, and they also send out a valuable fortnightly ecalendar with the various writing activities, workshops, news, competitions and awards happening across the nation.

Tasmanians aren't so scary after all

~storytelling nomad~

14 comments on “Overcoming a fear of writers’ groups

  1. I’m glad it was a good experience! :-) I’m so glad I joined mine a couple months ago. People with different perspectives and backgrounds catch things that I miss. And while I welcome the constructive criticism, it is really nice when someone without the bonds of friend or family says they love my story. 0:-)

    • Me too! Receiving positive feedback from relative strangers would definitely be encouraging. That’s something to be really proud of!

  2. And I’m glad it was a good experience too! I’m one of those people you met last night and we’re really pleased you came along. Thanks for joining our little group and being part of something we all hope will lead us to further success in our writing and ultimately, publication.

  3. Writing groups can be tremendously supportive, and it’s a great experience when you know other people are becoming invested in your work, and you in theirs.

  4. I’ve also been flirting with the idea of a writing group lately. Perhaps I’ll give it a go! I meet with a friend once a week to talk about writing, but I’d like to expand it a bit.

    • Meeting with a friend would be really useful too. I think like Angela commented earlier, it’s nice to also have people who you aren’t close to, outside the bonds of friendship and family, to appreciate your work and offer feedback. Definitely give it a go if there’s an opportunity near where you live. You have nothing to lose after all! Maybe you could bring your friend? I can imagine that would be less daunting.

  5. Oh man, I totally relate. I’m going back to grad school this fall and this is how I imagine my workshops, without fail. Scary and mean kids or weird kids or some combination of both :)

    • Ha ha! It’s our inner monsters trying to scare us into inertia. I was so scared of having to workshop my writing last year at uni, the first time ever I had to share my stuff with the class…Panic! But at the end of the day they were so supportive and helpful. But I’m glad I’m not the only one who suffers these anxieties!

  6. Pingback: Writers are scary. Writing groups are groups of writers. via @katyhulme | Literarium – The Blog

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