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When I first learned that my husband and I were moving to Georgia, I did what most people do when they relocate. I researched the city and real estate in safe neighborhoods, but I also gave as much attention to finding a new writers group. This produced some chuckles from my hubby over the past summer.
"Shouldn't you be looking at houses?" He asked me one morning from overseas when we were chatting on Skype.
"I did." I emailed him a list of rental properties I wanted to check out when he got home from deployment.
"Well, what are you doing now? I can see you typing."
"Googling writers groups in Georgia." I glanced at the corner of my computer screen to see my husband shaking his head in the camera. He was teasing, but he knew how important connecting with other writers is to me.
Being part of a group is one of the best things we writers can do for ourselves. Our work is solitary, the process can seem nonsensical to people that don't write, and it does get lonely. We need to connect with others not only to get feedback on our manuscripts, but to converse with those who understand what we go through on a regular basis.
While I'm blessed to have family and friends that support me in my writing endeavors, I don't put the unfair expectation upon them to understand why I may be upbeat about finishing a chapter one week and why I need to be talked off a ledge the next. That's where writers groups come in. Here, I can meet with people over a cup of coffee and discuss/vent about the week's progress. This setting affords me four things I would be missing out on if left to my own devices.
Professionalism: I feel more like a "serious" writer when I'm bouncing ideas around, as well as giving and receiving critiques. I also take swim lessons from experienced authors who know more about navigating the publishing waters than I do.
Friendships: As I said before, writing is lonely business. Some of the friends I've made in my local ACFW chapter and other writer meetups have visited me in the hospital, took me out for lunch on days I really missed my husband while he was deployed, and offered encouraging words at the right time.
Accountability: I went to school to be a lawyer. I know how to phrase my excuses for not writing to make them sound convincing. Fortunately, my tactics don't work on other writers. They've heard and probably used them all.
Support: Or what I like to think of as cheap therapy ;-) I can't tell you how many times just talking about my writerly frustrations to another has kept me from throwing in the towel.
So, outside of feedback and critiques, is finding a writers group absolutely necessary? For me, it is. I know the horror stories about arrogant people, the slamming criticisms of manuscripts, etc. Been there. All I can really say to that is find another group that is positive and operates in an environment of respect and credibility. Make sure the group members have similar writing goals, or at least have a purpose that is conducive to moving forward, not being stagnant. They're out there, and they're looking forward to seeing what you bring to the table.
Do you belong to a writers group? What works better for you, frequent or occasional meetings?