Writing isn’t really a social activity. You can’t focus on getting 500 or so words out about a topic if you have someone next to you gabbing in your ear. While writing isn’t social, it doesn’t have to be a lonely. If you want to take your career as a professional writer to the next level or even get your foot in the door of the writing world, one of the best things you can do is join a writing group.
One of the major benefits of joining a writing group is that you have a team of people who will give you feedback on your work. Even if you have a steady stream of clients, it can be difficult to see if your writing is improving or if you’re developing a solid craft. When a client reviews your work, he or she is looking to see that it fulfills the needs of the company. When a team of fellow writers review your work, they’ll be looking to see if it fulfills your stated goal. Ideally, your fellow writers will give you constructive, objective criticism that will help you grow in your career and craft.
Bounce Ideas Around
Joining a writer’s group can help you push past cases of writer’s block. Some groups regularly give their members writing prompts, which can help get your creative juices flowing. Your group could also spend time working on pitches or ideas for stories. You might also hear a story a fellow writer is working on and be inspired to put your own spin on it, or to take it in another direction.
If writing’s your career, you’re always looking for new opportunities or new places to publish your work. Your fellow writing group members can offer networking tips, point you in the direction of great clients, or share news about writing contests and competitions. Meeting with a group of writers regularly also lets you stay up to date on what’s going on in the field. Another writer can point you in the direction of a useful conference, for example.
What to Look for in a Professional Writer’s Group
Choosing the right writing group can be the most challenging part of the process. It’s a bit like dating, only in this case, you’re looking for a professional group, not a life partner. Ideally, the writers in your group will work in the same area as you. If you’re a blogger, look for a group made for bloggers. If you want to focus on short fiction, look for a short story group.
While some groups are open to writers of all experience levels, it’s best to find one that’s appropriate to your experience. If you’ve been a pro for a while, you won’t get much benefit from a writing group designed for beginners.
You can find groups in your area from places such as Meetup or the directory offered by MediaBistro. Once you’ve found a group that seems to be a good fit, go to one session. The best group will get down to business right away and leave the socializing for later. It will have clear expectations of its writers (such as everyone bringing a story to share) and will have clear rules about critiquing other writers’ work. You want a group that will help you grow in a positive manner, not one that will tear your work to shreds and leave you weeping at the end.
Amy F is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.