A New Writers Group

Starting in March I will be heading up a small writers group which will meet in the theatre where I do most of my acting: The Black Box Arts Center. I don’t know how much interest it will generate yet, but I’m aiming for at least four regular attendees for this monthly meeting.

I’ve been part of several writing clubs over the years. One started out as very useful for me, but when an arrogant incompetent took it over from me and someone else without permission, I knew it was time to move on.

Even before that, I was tiring of the format, wherein sometimes merciless critiques were given by writers just as experienced or less as the author who submitted a story any given week. I have not been to a meeting in close to two years, and can’t say what it’s like now, (though the jackass I mentioned is still in a leadership role.) But I can say that leaders aside, it started to feel to me like expressing opinions was more important than the writing. I hope to avoid this with the group I’ll be moderating.

I want my group to be about encouragement. Inspiration.  I want those who come to it to feel more likely to write something than they otherwise would have felt had they not come. While ruthless critiques have their place, I think for many people, especially those who have not written much at all, such an approach is more likely to shut down, not open up. So that’s not how this group will work.

I don’t mean to suggest everyone must love what anybody writes. I do intend, however, to focus more on getting people to write, and allowing people to read the result, and less on why a story fails as a piece. Authors will be given the chance to ask for the ruthless comments, but they won’t be required. Tough love can be found elsewhere as needed, too.

Writing prompts and exercises will be part of this group as well, because I feel that even those who are too intimidated to write an entire story are often willing and able to find themselves writing whatever comes to mind based on a picture for 15 minutes. They can share that with the group or not, but in the end, once someone who is shy about writing sees that yes, they can indeed create something small, I’m hoping they will then conclude they can write something bigger, with more of a narrative to it. If so, sweet; the group has produced another writer. If not, no harm and no foul.

Publishing will not be emphasized on a regular basis. Some writing groups spend half of their time dissecting what is and is not likely to “sell,” with an agent or publisher. (As though that can truly be predicted with any certainty these days.) Writing and publishing eventually go together, if one wants an audience. The aspects of getting an agent or self-publishing are significant to someone who wants their work, “out there.” But I’m from the school of, “you need something written first, before you can sell it.” If you think too much about publishing before you even start writing, you create a millstone in my view. If something makes you more afraid to write, that something is not for you.

The venue also helps. The BBAC wants to reach artists in the community of all kinds, not just actors. The cafe or the library have their own charms for writers, of course, but I suspect that being in a small, non-profit arts center will go a long way in stripping off distractions, and getting attendees right into a creative mindset so crucial for art of any kind. A mindset that may or may not arrive as fully while the group waits for a moderator to get back with a latte that takes five minutes to make.

So, this will be another adventure in the world of writing which I suspect will help me as much as it helps other writers of any level of experience. It takes all kinds of groups, just as it takes all kinds of writers, but let’s see how this writer and this group work out with others.

 

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2 Comments

  1. I like this idea! I’ve personally cringed at the idea of writers’ groups meeting in cafes or public places. It’s difficult enough to share work with people in the group; no need to meet in public and have people overhear you…Plus, at the BBAC, there’s no pressure to purchase something from the cafe or guilt for staying a long time when discussion gets going.

  2. Took a while for the comment to show up, I don’t know why. But as to what you said, yes…the place where this former group of mine met was always playing music, and worse, blasting what I think was a coffee maker cappuccino machine thing that shook the whole place.

    Also, strangers would ask what we were talking about, and tell us they were writers too and want to join on the spot, which we couldn’t let them do, of course. But we didn’t want to drive them away either. So, yes, BBAC is likely to be an easier atmosphere.

    Even more than that, I want more people writing more often according to their true goals. If I can help make that happen, I will be pleased with all of this.

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