The other day I got a newsletter with an article on writers’ groups that I just couldn’t believe. The author of the article said that the purpose of a successful writers’ group was to boost your sales, and if the writers’ group didn’t do that, you didn’t want to be in it.
First off, I really hate it when someone I don’t know tells me what I want. Puts my back up right away. And second, although I’m a great believer in writers being paid for their work, I would never, ever say that money is the whole point of writing. I talk a lot about it, but do think that art is a calling in the same way that anything else done from the heart must be.
I believe the main point of a writers’ group is to support your writing and help you improve it. I know writers whose idea of a perfect writers’ group doesn’t involve critique at all, ever. For them, a perfect writers’ group involves praise and love. So be it. Every writer needs to find a group that will serve her or his needs.
Writers’ groups evolve. The one I’m in has shifted focus a couple of times. We’ve moved critique out of the main meeting. Critique meetings are infrequent, focused on a few pieces, and attended by people prepared to give and receive critique. The process works much better now; several of our group members weren’t able to absorb or give critique, and didn’t seem willing to learn. We’re also forming a separate group concerned with marketing and selling work. It leaves more time and focus for the writing jams that are now the main part of our meetings.
Some of our members come only to the monthly jams. Some do jams and critiques. There will be some of us who do jams, critique meetings and the marketing group, which we’re calling “Mission Submission”. In this way the group can serve the needs of all of its members.
I’ll confess to resisting these changes at first, but after seeing how well the separate critique group has worked, I think the separate marketing group is the way to go. You can call it three different writers’ groups if you want, although the membership of each is open only to the members of the main jamming group. We’ve spent a lot of time building trust in that group, and that same trust carries over to the other functions.
I’m still working on making a living at writing. Mission Submission will help me with the nuts and bolts of sales; the critique group helps me polish my work into something publishable, but it’s the jamming group that gets me thinking on my feet and has given me the seeds of many stories and poems. Inspiration, critique and sales; I need all three.
My writing group serves my needs, and it’s the one I should be in. Find a group where you can give and receive, where your needs are met. That’s the group you’ll probably find you want to be in.