“This wasn’t what I was expecting, but it’s been great fun,” said a new face last week at one of the writers’ circles I go to. I think it was a compliment!
Our potential new face was, quite understandably, nervous about going to a group of writers. She was expecting a more formal tone, I think, where the written work was scrutinised at a grammatical level and writers were given lines if they dare split an infinitive. Instead, we tend to argue over other more important matters; what are we going to open first; the chocolate HobNobs or the Guylian chocolates?
The point it that all writers groups comprise individual writers, which means the groups are individual too. I’ve said before that I go to two groups, because I get different things from each group. One has a large membership, which means we’re in a financial position to organise events, such as workshops where we invite guest speakers in, run international competitions, and organise retreats. Whereas the smaller group offers me an opportunity to read out and get feedback on longer pieces that I don’t get time to consider at the bigger group.
But, one thing that both groups have in common is that they encourage writing. Whether it’s 100 words or 2,000 words, both groups inspire me to put pen to paper. I might not always end up with something to take along to every meeting, but the encouragement is there. And attendance exposes you to different forms of writing and exercises. On Saturday, at the larger group, we were drawing scenes from famous films, using stick men - thankfully - and passing our masterpieces around to see whether others could identify what the scene was depicting, and whether it inspired us to write something else. Now, that’s not something I would normally do on my own, but when I came away from the meeting I’d written something in my notebook and I came away with an idea for s short story.
So it doesn’t matter how a writers’ group operates as long as it inspires its members to write. Yes, through open discussion, it’s good to offer constructive criticism, for that’s how we learn and develop, But we also need to be inspired the first place.
If you’ve never been to a writers’ group, or if you already go to one, why not find a new group and give them a try? You won’t know if you’ll benefit until you step through the door.
Not every writers’ group is right for every writer. But I can guarantee one thing. It’s always a good sign if there’s chocolate on offer.