Loneliness and Four Benefits of Writing Groups

Given that for five days a week I spend about seven hours day completely on my own, the loneliness can start to close in on me. After a few weeks of working on your own, you start to feel a bit  like Chuck Noland in Cast Away. Isolated, a bit forgotten and you have to resist the urge to speak to inanimate objects. I’m currently not speaking to my stapler, but that’s mostly cos he’s a conceited arsehole.

The main thing I miss about working in an office environment with other people is the busyness of it. The hustle and bustle. The noise and human interaction. The  gossip and office politics. That’s how I got into going to writing groups. I don’t go to a writing group every week, or even every month. I go when I need to, and I recommend joining one for the following reasons:

1. You’ll connect with other people who love writing:

Because I came so late to the writing party, I don’t have many friends that like to write. I’ve met some really interesting people through writer’s groups: actors, playwrights, poets. People that I can learn from, and that I’d never have naturally encountered in my own social circle. Spending time with others who are passionate about writing reinforces your feeling that it is something good and worthwhile. Also, in my experience, writer’s groups are incredibly welcoming and inclusive spaces, full of friendly, supportive people. A writing group is a great place to go when you need a boost, but it is also a place where you can make new friends and have a lot of fun.

2. You’ll write something new:

In both writing groups that I go to the ‘chairman’ supplies writing prompts. We are then given a set time to produce something inspired by the prompt. The prompt might be a line from a poem/a quote/a line from a piece of literature, other times it’s an object or a picture. I find that the prompts definitely fire up my imagination.  I end up producing something completely new that might need a lot of work, but nonetheless something that I wouldn’t have produced if I’d stayed in my office/cell to have a chat with my hole-punch.

3. You’ll be invited to share your work:

I’ve learned that reading your work aloud is a good practice. It gives you a sense of the cadence and rhythm of your writing, and what will jar with the reader. Reading your work aloud in front of a group of people, though nerve-racking, is good practice. Open mic sessions are a good way of building your audience. If you ever plan on doing an open-mic reading your work in a room of people you know and trust is a good way to build your confidence before taking the plunge.

4. You might find beta-readers:

I know lots of writers recommend that you get complete strangers to beta-read for you on the basis that you’ll beta-read for them in exchange. I find that approach to be a real gamble.  Getting complete strangers to beta-read my stuff in exchange for me reading theirs will often result in me receiving back vague and useless critique. This is very frustrating when I’ve put so much work into the feedback I’ve prepared for them. In other words, I often don’t get a good return on my investment. If you find someone in your writing group who gives good, constructive feedback on the work of other people in the group you’ve struck gold. You’ll have found yourself a potential beta-reader, and most importantly, one worth asking.

Over to you: Are you a member of a writing group, and why? What benefits have I missed? What are the negatives of writing groups in your opinion?