Writers' groups have stopped me from losing my mind. Writing can be a lonely business, especially when you're working another job on top of your writing commitments. I make it a point to try and attend at least two writing events a month and I always leave each one feeling a bit better about myself. It's nice to know there are other people wondering if they have made a big mistake and realising that actually no we haven't. We may be amongst some of the lowest paid people on the planet, but together we are a formidable group.
The one thing regardless of genre that we have in common is the need to read and tell stories.
I identifed a number of reasons as to why writers' groups and events can be so important to a writer:
1. You know you're not alone
Knowing there are others trying to do the same thing as you make you feel a whole lot better about the thoughts and characters running around in your head.
2. You are inspired to continue
Sometimes talking about writing with friends and colleagues who aren't in the business can be tough and a little demoralising. Like any job or career, it's hard to understand the challenges and benefits unless you're in the same job or career. Meeting other writers who are in the same business can be really inspiring and help you birth new ideas and keep working.
3. You never know who you're going to meet
I recently met in no particular order; Jo Fletcher (formerly an editor of Terry Pratchett & Ursula K Le Guin amongst others), Anna Jackson (Editorial Director of SFF at Orbit UK) and Eleanor Teasdale (Agent at Greene and Heaton). I met all of these publishing professionals at some of the writers' groups I attend regularly. I've also met other writers at different stages in their careers and made friends as well as establishing good professional relationships. I wouldn't have met any of these people if I hadn't gone to my groups. Writers' groups are often a good opportunity to network and make friends. Don't ever count them out.
4. You get to have your work critiqued by strangers
An essential part of being a writer is knowing that everything you write needs a damn good edit. There is no writer alive that can produce the perfect story or novel without an editor. This is true across the whole publishing spectrum. Writers' groups provide me the opportunity to meet people who don't know me or my work and are happy to read and critique it dispassionately. This has been essential to my continuing development and directly contributed to me winning an international award in 2017. Giving a story or novel to a family member or friend is not always going to get me the best feedback. Giving my work to another reader and writer in my genre gives me more perspective. They will often pick out things I never would have noticed, often making the story better.
5. You have fun
Writers' groups are a safety valve for me. They allow me to be 'John the Writer' as opposed to 'John the Odd Job Man' tapping madly away at his keyboard alone. I get to talk to people in my genre and share information. This is fun and helps both my writing and mental health.