Lately I have been feeling dissatisfied with my writing groups. I am in three – a fabulous small group of dear women who all seem to be suffering inertia of varying severity, a lively, talented group of women who offer me perspectives that I could never find elsewhere and, the other group. This group is an unvetted whoever-wants-to-show-up morass. I have been considering dropping out of the group because it is a forty minute drive, the coffee shop is noisy, and I could be using that time to be writing, but haven’t. I like some of these people and some of the writing is quite good. I want to know what happens in those books. On the other hand, some of the writing is, frankly, awful.
Herein, lies my point. I have been doing this writing group thing for five years now. I started out in a similar free for all type group lead by a man, let’s just call him Dude, that seemed to be there for the sole purpose of making people feel bad about themselves and their writing. Some of the writing, very much including mine, was dreck. We didn’t know what we were doing. People were trying out ideas and learning conventions left and right. I went every month for at least a year and the people around the table were never the same. Dude ran off every other woman that showed up. He was mean and demeaning and unhelpful. He once told me one of my stories was “crap,” end of story. I had put Dude out of my mind as just a jerk but, I’ve been thinking about him again in the last few months. Some of the new people in my writing group are where I was five years ago and I have the opportunity to treat them far better than I was treated. I’ve decided not to drop out of the group, not be as harsh as Dude was and help someone else. I’m not pretending to know all the answers but if I can hold someone’s hand through getting a short story published or a novel to the end of the first draft, it will be worth the drive and price of coffee.