You probably think of writing as a solitary activity—and, to some extent, you are right. “Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world,” notes Annie Dillard in The Writing Life. “One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.”
In the best of circumstances, however, that’s not where the story ends. Although we’re right to think of writing as partly a solitary activity, it’s also true that writers—like other artists—benefit from meeting regularly with other creative people.
If you’re a writer trying to perfect your craft, you’ll get much further if you work within a creative community. You will benefit enormously from being in an environment in which you can both offer and receive encouragement, feedback, and fellowship—just as Tolkien did.
How to Find a Writing Group
A writer, it seems, needs the support of his peers as well as a quiet room in which to work. But how does one find such peers?
You might be surprised by how many writing groups already exist in your area. Google is your friend here. Try searching your city’s name and “writing group” or something similar. Search for statewide groups that might have a chapter in your area. If that doesn’t help you, ask around at your library, at churches, and at local independent coffee shops and bookstores—places where a writing group is likely to meet.
Online writing forums can be helpful, but they’re not a good replacement for the “live audience” a good writing group will provide. “We need to have not just a notional audience in mind for the things we write,” Dr. Ward told me, “but an actual audience: real, flesh-and-blood people whom we can bounce ideas off.”
If you can’t find a group that’s right for you, consider starting one of your own. “Start small,” advises Dr. Ordway. “A couple of friends meeting every week or two, for coffee or a drink, is more likely to take root than an over-ambitious and highly-structured group.” Find a few friends who are willing to read your works in progress, and give them permission to tell you what they think.
This can be difficult at first, but your writing will be much better for it. “My…students have discovered that although it’s terrifying at first to show one’s writing to others, the result is that they are forced to look at their own writing with new eyes,” Dr. Ordway told me. “Often, they see ways to improve that they never would have noticed on their own.”
Last Updated on