A Writer Community, writers collaborating for individual, artistic growth, holds many potential benefits, but only with a clear and agreeable structure.
Humans are messy, after all. Nothing can smash the intention of a writing fellowship like confused expectations. Here are some important questions to discuss with your group prior to sharing your actual writing.
Who will lead?
Naming a leader, even if it changes hands every month, provides a break for everyone. Members can relax and trust that someone has this meeting in hand. An elected leader also prevents long overly-polite silences, or resentment toward someone grabbing all the power. Exchanges of power sets a tone of equality and respect.
How do we manage critiques?
If you want to grow as a writer, the ego must be managed. If you don’t want feedback, just say so. But if you do, then here are some solid behaviors to practice:
Step One – Introduce your piece with any helpful context: your writing purpose, any positive outcomes, naming any desire for specific feedback on one element, or what you found challenging.
Step Two – As individuals share their thoughts, do not interrupt feedback with your own thoughts. Stick with these responses:
a. “Thank you for your feedback.”
b. “I heard you say….is that right?”
c. “I understand.”
Step Three – Thank them all collectively again and provide any newly developed thoughts of your own, but avoid emotional defense. This writing process is a delicate art form; your peers giving an honest response to your writing is a gift. Make it safe for them to do so.
In what ways do individuals hold autonomy?
Artists like freedom, so they appreciate choices. It is important to know if one can think for themselves, maybe pass on feedback, or write a poem while the others write stories, or read it aloud with theatrics. There are simple ways to encourage writers to feel freedom and empowerment, despite the mutual parameters of the collective. If I want a new writing challenge, it might be old news for another member, so we need to be able to stretch in our own ways. We will benefit most from a little wiggle room.
When is our recap?
It is easier to try new approaches if we know that we are in a trial period. A healthy community will reconvene once a quarter or so to openly share how things are going, what needs to be tweaked, and of course, what is still working! Additionally, if you are a complainer, then show up with solutions. Be open. Keep it light. If we aren’t having fun, why are we here?
Stephen King’s On Writing https://a.co/d/5DOwvVp suggests that writer circles won’t necessarily make one a great writer, but they are a hell of a lot of fun! Plenty of great writers do credit writing circles for their success, but of course, that depends on the members involved. Either way, a writing community will provide unexpected growth, socially if nothing else, and continued inspiration for the writing craft!