Writing groups vs. writers’ groups

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I just spent a stormy Tuesday evening writing with a half-dozen friends. I am always productive when I write with others. I also do pretty well when I write alone, but when I’m with others I’m less inclined to let myself get distracted from the work.

And, based on our conversation after we wrote, I realized I hadn’t articulated my goal in extending the invitation for others to meet me at a library. I know others aren’t as starved for writing time as I am. I’m working to change that, and joining groups that write is one way to do it.

For the last several years, my first writers’ group has hosted a writing day once or twice a year. We have a space we can use that’s big enough for our group members plus 10 or 12 additional writers. We’ve never needed more space than that. And it was perfect for social distancing the last few times we hosted the day.

We gather about 8:30 a.m. and pack up about 4:30 p.m., with an hour at lunch to socialize. That’s a pretty long day for writing, and twice a year seems like enough for something like that.

And since COVID, the magic of online meeting software has opened up a world of write-ins through two groups I belong to — Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. They, of course, offer far more than some group write-ins.

I’m not sure why I like write-ins so well. The only thing I can attribute it to is the years I’ve spent writing in newsrooms. I used to have trouble writing in those wide open spaces, but once I learned what background noise I could ignore and what I needed to heed, I found buckling down at deadline was easy.

I can imagine that there is something to having all those people involved in the same effort that put us all on a writing “wave length.” And I like that wave length.

As for critique groups, those have a different aim, and I haven’t done as well in them. I think part of my problem has been not having enough time to devote to reading others’ work — on top of the paucity of my own writing time. But I realized immediately that reading is a crucial part of critique groups. I dropped out of them.

Now that I’m moving to full time fiction writing, I think I might be ready to become a better member of a critique group. All I need to do is figure out a critique group formula that works for me … and a handful of other writers, too.

In the meantime, I’m taking full advantage of my writing groups. And I love the folks who are willing to write together.

What’s your process?

Today I found Monica Leonelle’s post about her writing experiment. She kept track of her writing and figured out when she was really working. Then she used what she learned to increase her productivity. I think I know my process, but this might help you figure yours out. And improve it.

The Three Biggest Surprises When Starting (or Attempting) a Daily Writing Habit – Sterling & Stone
http://sterlingandstone.net/starting-daily-writing-habit/

Home can work

For years, I’ve wanted an office away from home, more than just a “room of one’s own” to work on my “extracurricular” writing projects. It hasn’t been an option, so I’ve done what I can from the house. Here are a few good tips to make working at home work. (Noise cancelling headphones, hmm…)
Get in the Zone: 5 Tips for Eliminating Distractions and Staying Productive When Working from Home – Social-Hire
http://www.social-hire.com/career–interview-advice/5201/get-in-the-zone-5-tips-for-eliminating-distractions-and-staying-productive-when-working-from-home

Do it daily

Keeping at it — writing every day — is a challenge many face. Even the greats, John Steinbeck, for example, face it. For a glimpse into Steinbeck’s routine and the doubts he overcame, here is a synopsis of Working Days, his journal of The Grapes of Wrath. Then write. And repeat.

Working Days: John Steinbeck, the Art of Discipline, and the Diary as a Pacemaker for the Heartbeat of Creative Work | Brain Pickings
http://www.brainpickings.org/2015/03/02/john-steinbeck-working-days/