Lots of people can tell you why joining a writing group is helpful: networking, sharing warnings and advice, mentorship, critique partners, access to workshops and lectures, etc. It's a big list but there's one that tends to get glossed over.
Sharing the crazy.
Writing is essentially solitary. It's disappearing into imaginary worlds with imaginary friends and trying to make that seem real and cool and like a valuable contribution to society as a whole.
So when writers get together, there's a relaxing of tension. We understand each other. We can laugh about the ridiculous lengths we've gone to while trying to find a name for a character or a reasonable excuse for why two people have been stranded in an isolated cabin. We can share the characters, stories, and writers who have inspired us. We can brainstorm, share a shoulder or raise a glass.
And then, when we walk out, something amazing happens. The job seems easier and the weight of it sits lighter on our shoulders than it did before. The creativity is flowing faster and more smoothly. We're eager to get back to typing and sharing the stories rattling around our brains.
This year, I missed ORWA's regular meetings between March and June (we take the summer off). And while I had my own issues to cope with, not having that monthly connection contributed to the slowing down and eventual halt of my ability to write.
In August, there was RTC (Romancing the Capital) and then last weekend, I arranged an informal lunch for ORWA members. Both ended up being a major re-zap to my brain. I'm still dealing with the same limitations that I was in April and May, but I'm writing more and I'm more confident in what I'm writing.
I've heard a lot of excuses for not joining a group: fear of rejection, fear of cliques, fear of plagiarism, too little time, too much money, too far, bad timing, doing fine on my own, preferring online... the list goes on. But I would highly encourage everyone to give it a try. There is something freeing about being among people who get our brand of crazy.
I'm going to push ORWA here, because I've done other groups and I've found them to be the most supportive and helpful. Our next workshop is Sunday, September 10th from 10 to 4. (It's actually two workshops with Alicia Rasley: Emotion without Sentimentality and Intensive Pacing. $20 for one or $30 for both.) For those considering taking the plunge, go ahead and give it a try. Maybe you'll find that our crazy is exactly what you've been looking for.