Is it important to spend time with other writers? Here at Write Yorkshire, we're a tight-knit scribble* of writers; there's a tiny possibility that we might be a bit biased about this one. But then again, we might just be on to something...
A group of writers
(Yes, we made it up. Yes, we're sticking with it.)
This is an interesting one. YES, but with a caveat.
Over the years I’ve been involved in quite a few writing groups, some very small and close-knit, others larger and less consistent in membership. All have been motivating to some degree, but with varying degrees of success and effectiveness. Then I reached a turning point.
This is something I’ve said on multiple occasions: If I got nothing else from my midlife crisis Masters in Creative Writing, if I learned nothing, failed to find publication opportunities, took part in no enrichment, produced no original work, and gained no qualifications or professional contacts, it would still have been worth every single penny I paid for it, just to meet the four or five writers I’ve formed a strong connection with. I talk to these amazing people almost every day and their constructive, creative influence is always present in my work. They make me a better writer, a better person and they provide support which makes the often complicated lifestyle of an aspiring writer both possible and enjoyable; a pursuit which can rapidly become lonely, demoralising and non-productive without the right support structure in place.
So YES, it’s so important to form relationships with other writers. But you need to choose the right ones, with the following considerations in mind:
Find a group that facilitates your needs - do you need structured writing exercises or just a place to share works in progress? Do you need blunt, no mercy feedback or do you need more nurturing? Do you need to be instructed and lead? Do you need feedback on work and ideas - and if so, are you prepared to return in kind? Who are you prepared to accept feedback from? Will you thrive more with a small or large group? Consistent membership or lots of new faces? Will you be better off among peers at a similar career / development stage as yourself or do you need to be a big / small fish?
The absolute key, for me, is mutual respect. I need a little bit of nurturing and a lot of honesty, and most importantly, I need an environment which is safe, so I can push my own writing boundaries a bit and feel secure when I share work. My colleagues here at Write Yorkshire (and one or two you can’t see behind the scenes) constantly blow me away with their grace and talent, and for that reason I am not only comfortable in receiving (and implementing) feedback from them, but find myself eager for their thoughts and input. Every time a piece of my work goes around our group, I grow a little more.
Look for a group where you work together to build each other up - not where it feels like you can only reach the top of your game by climbing over other people.
There is nothing so empowering as being in a group of likeminded people, whose talent inspires you, whose support drives you and whose successes bring you incredible joy and pride.
If you are a writer, you need other writers. Writing is a solitary pursuit, for the most part, and without other writers, you will be writing into the abyss. I mean, you could ask non-writer family or friends for feedback, but, if they’re not writers, they’ll just be nice to you and that’s no good to anyone.
A fellow writer will know what sharing feels like. They’ll know the tremulous feeling you get when you hand over your manuscript. They’ll know that you’ll want to claw it back the second after it leaves your grasp; to shove it in a box under the bed and deny all knowledge of its existence. They’ll know that at the same time you’re desperate to know if that metaphor works, if there are too many adverbs, if that comma is working hard enough and should you leave out the exclamation mark? (Yes, usually.)
They know, because they’re writers. And if - and it’s a big if - you’ve picked the right ones, they’ll know how to give feedback that hurts just enough to make you want to change your work. I believe that feedback should hurt a tiny bit. If it doesn’t hurt, you don’t care. If it doesn’t hurt, you know it’s wrong. If it doesn’t hurt, you don’t value it. It should never be intended to hurt, but when an arrow hits the target, it leaves a little tear. When those little tears mend, we toughen up and grow as writers. Our writing buddies are our sparring partners.
Finding writers that will do all this for you is like finding gold. Writing is a seriously scary pastime. You’re baring your soul, sharing your secrets, and holding your babies up for scrutiny. You need people around you that you can trust. How do you know that this new writer you’ve met isn’t going to listen to your idea and then nick it? How do you know they’re not going to be so jealous of your talent that they tear everything you show them to bits? You don’t, at first, is the truth, but it won’t take you long. Join writing groups, go on retreats, evening classes...keep hanging round the inkwell until you find your tribe.
Good souls find each other, and when you’ve found your writing soulmates, you’ll know. You’re a writer; you know people - that’s your stock in trade. So listen to, and trust your gut, take the leap of faith, and your trusted band of fellow writers will become the best friends you ever had.
How do I know? Because I’ve struck gold (I even married one, but you don’t have to go that far). The writing tribe I’m lucky enough to have gathered around me is the number one best thing about writing. I would never have met them if it hadn’t been for this writing bug I have - so there we are.
Writing has brought me riches after all.
P.S. You might come across a few wrong ones on the journey, but never let that put you off. After all, you can get your revenge by putting them in your stories and doing vile things to them.
For me, it's absolutely essential. One of my biggest issues as a writer is that I hate sharing my work, I mean seriously hate sharing it. So, for most of my life, I've kept it to myself and spent an awful amount of time wondering if any of it was any good. However, when I started my creative writing degree, keeping work to myself was no longer an option. I'm not going to lie to you and say it was an instant joy and I loved sharing it, because I most definitely did not, but I learnt the importance of being surrounded by other writers.
Other writers can offer so many different things. I know everyone within my trusted circle writes completely different styles and genres to each other, but we never run out of ideas for each other when they're needed. There's something so magical about having somewhere to go (physical or not), that is rich in creativity but without judgement. It can really help you flourish as a writer.
Having a group of trusted people, who can think similarly to you is so absolutely wonderful when it comes to workshopping. If you find the right group for you, because I do believe the right group is important, you'll feel more supported and encouraged than you ever have before.
My Write Yorkshire colleagues, the ones you know and our trusty proof-readers / cheerleaders that you don't, those guys are my group of people. As writers, they give me honest feedback, millions of wonderful ideas, encouragement, support and, most importantly, a kick up the backside when needed. As people they're some of my best friends and I'm so glad we all have writing in common, otherwise we mightn't have found one another and I certainly wouldn't be the writer I am today without them.
I can only speak for myself of course, but having found such wonderful writers to surround myself with I can't help but gush about them a bit. The important thing to remember is that the writing process can be so individual, if you're happy keeping your writing to yourself and not showing it to others then that's absolutely okay, but I can't help but say there's something truly special about finding your people, and maybe, just maybe, it's worth a shot.
This is the first question I have no mixed feelings about. I didn’t have to consider my answer for a second. Yes. It is always beneficial to keep yourself in the company of other writers. I wasn’t aware of this until I met my Write Yorkshire family. They have been pivotal in my journey as a writer so far. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be part of this collective, I wouldn’t be throwing myself at opportunities and I would definitely still be writing cliched stories about cigarettes and teenage angst.
Having a group of writers at your fingertips helps in more ways than you might realise. Sure, it can be tempting to lock yourself away from the world and work on that novel, but having real connections with other writers will benefit your own writing processes and writing life immensely.
First of all, writers always have their noses in the air to sniff out any potential writing opportunities. Being part of a network inevitably brings more chances to write your way. Writers also make the best critics. We love each other and always want to read each other’s work, but we’re not afraid to tell the truth. We know what standards we need to be held up to.
Another thing about surrounding yourself with other writers (or artists, in general), is that the inspiration they evoke in you is second to none. Being exposed to good work ethic and incredible writing has an influence on a person. It makes you want to be better. When your peers are hitting deadlines and working hard, it’s hard to feel anything other than motivation (and sometimes envy).
You might want to make connections with other writers but you don’t know how. There are plenty of us out there. Join a writing group, sign up for a creative writing class, find them on twitter, reach out to your favourite author, or you can always get in touch with one of us here at Write Yorkshire.
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Cover image by Victoria_Borodinova via Pixabay