Friday, March 04, 2011

Finding a Community

“A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.” - Henrik Ibsen quotes (Major Norwegian playwright of the late 19th century, 1828-1906)


When I teach, students ask about writing groups. I invite them to stay after the class if they are interested in forming one. Invariably a few folks hang out afterward to swap information and get something started. One of the groups that formed after one of my classes has been writing together for at least five years.

I first joined a writing group the day after I arrived back in Columbus from my first Natalie Goldberg writing workshop in Taos, New Mexico. I walked into Stauf's coffeehouse, a place I'd written nearly every day for months, and spotted two women I hadn't seen before sitting at a table. One woman listened intently as the other read aloud from a spiral notebook. On the floor beneath one of the chairs sat Natalie Goldberg's first book, Writing Down the Bones. I waited until they were done reading to each other, introduced myself, and asked if they were doing writing practice. They were. I told them I'd just returned from Taos and one of Natalie's workshops and they invited me to join them. The three of us wrote together for a year and a half until I moved to New Mexico to work with Natalie.

This experience proved to me, if you're open to forming a writing group, the opportunity will appear. When I moved to New Mexico, I was more assertive. I posted a flyer at coffeehouses and the library. I was very specific telling prospective members what kind of group it would be and when it would meet. The flyer read, "Writer seeks other writers to do Natalie Goldberg style writing practice weekday hours." Over the next few months, six people responded and we formed a group that met for nearly three years. Many of us are still in touch.

There is also a list of more than thirty central Ohio writing groups on my website at http://www.nitasweeney.com/newsletter/ongoing-writing-groups/

If you're looking for a group of writers to share the journey, it's out there. You might have to create it, but other folks want to be found. They're just waiting for you to get it started.

Do you belong to a writing group? If so, how did it start?

7 comments:

Faith Van Horne said...

Hey Nita, I learned a lot from the writing group I formed with some of the other women from your writing workshop. We met regularly for a few months, then gradually drifted apart. Even though we haven't met for a couple of years, the experience I gained from forcing myself to write every day, and share that writing with others, has been invaluable.

I'm now a member of a different writing group which meets primarily online. We're lucky enough to have a couple of professional authors in our group, and giving and taking critiques has expanded my skill set even more. I've since finished two novels and several short stories, and am actively seeking publication.

B. WHITTINGTON said...

I've been in writing groups since I started writing 20 years ago.
First in Pepper Pike (Cleveland), then in Grove City, now in Logan, Oh.

I am a writer who needs other writers to sustain myself through the ebb and flow of writing stories - there is so much to learn, even after all these years. Not only do we hold each other up in the hard times, but we rejoice with each other through the good.
I would not want to be without a writers group. Ours is called writers helping writers. We support, we read, we write, hopefully we teach as we learn, and most of all we are friends.

Blessings! Thanks for getting me started on writing groups. I've been blessed with some of the best groups.
I am a huge Natalie fan!

Nita said...

Thanks for the comments B and Faith. Writing groups have been integral to my growth as a writer. Plus, the camaraderie keeps me going when I'd like to give in. Glad you've had positive experiences too.

Anonymous said...

Hey Nita!
When I had my store On Second Thought I held a writers' group for women from 3-4 Sunday afternoons. (Which you graciously shared on your website!) When the store closed one of the ladies said, "Well, we're moving this gig across the street to Scottie's." I told her I no longer wished to "run" the session so now anyone attending just chimes in. We have been using the format I established (very loosely) and sometimes work "overtime" past four o'clock depending on how much we visit before getting down to writing. It's a very casual setting and our focus is on process, not publishing. If anyone has any questions you can contact me about it - or just stop in on a Sunday at Scottie's in Worthington and look for the women leaning in to hear each other read their work!
Nita, thanks for the forum to share our love of writing!
Jen "Pen" Richards OnSecondThought@mac.com

Nita said...

Glad to hear the group has found a new home!

Tanja said...

THANKS to you for those long ago meetings you held at B&N at Easton– that’s where it all began for me. Today I’m a member of RWA, COFW, OVRWA and meet regularly w/ a writing critique group and a journaling group. The people in these groups are a tremendous source of information, inspiration and encouragement. Each group provides a different dynamic in helping me achieve my writing goals.

I agree w/ you on how important it is to clarify what you are seeking in a writing group. It will take a little homework, but it is well worth it. I encourage those interested in starting a writer’s group to attend several others first, and, in some cases, “try-out” a specific group through 2-3 of their meetings: you may find a good fit with one already-made and, if not, you start to learn what you do/don’t want for your own. Nita, you make this step easier w/ your Group listing.

I would suggest to those starting-up a group to put together a simply written statement about their purpose and consider the right size for the group. Time is such a premium asset that I think it’s important to know why you are coming together and be able to evaluate the reward.

Nita said...

Excellent suggestions, Tanja! So glad you've found your writing group groove!

Also, folks, if you have an on-going writing group that's open to new members, but not on my list, please let me know and I'll add it.