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.