Our Writing Group Threw a Party; 4 Reasons Your Writing Group Should Too
This summer our writing group turned eleven, so we decided to throw ourselves a party. (To our credit, we thought it was out tenth anniversary—a more fitting year to celebrate—until we did some more thorough research. Also, it should be noted that technically, I've only been in the group for four years, some members for more than that, some less..) We reserved a private room at a local restaurant, ordered some food, and invited friends and family to attend. In the month leading up to the event, we decided we would each read for five minutes from pieces we had workshopped while in the group. We decided to read alphabetically and at the end of each reading we would introduce the person directly following us. The arrangements were fairly low stress and out of the event came benefits, both expected and unexpected. These are the four reasons I encourage your writing group to do as we did:
1. So yes, the party was a little self-indulgent. "Come here us read! Tell us how wonderful we are!" But, as writers, we receive plenty of rejection on a regular basis. Why not create a situation of validation for ourselves? If we never hear we're good enough, at some point we'll stop believing in ourselves. It can take a long time to find success. We can go long stretches between "yesses." I might not like getting up in front of a group of people and baring my soul, but it sure feels nice to be showered with praise afterward. Remembering the look of pride on my husband's face after my reading the other night will get me through the next two years of form rejections from literary magazines.
2. I don't know about you, but I hope to publish a book someday. And when (notice I didn't say "if") that book comes out, I'm planning to hustle, and hustling means readings. Before our writing group's party, the last time I had read some of my fiction to a crowd was in 2007. I went seven years between public readings. And before that I had done zero. Others in my group had never given a reading before. So when we get our books published and our publicist calls and says, "We're sending you on tour!" (I dream big, okay?) how are we supposed to be expected to go out there and kill from the beginning? The readings we gave at our party were great practice. They were in front of the most forgiving crowd possible. I'll admit to still being nervous as all hell, but I can imagine I would have been shaking a whole lot worse if I had been in a strange city instead, knowing not a soul in the audience. All of our readings went well. We took video. Maybe we’ll have the guts to watch ourselves and we’ll figure out some things to work on so we’re better the next time.
3. One of my closest friends attended the party and after the readings she said to me, "I had no idea." She knew I wrote. She knew I was in a writing group. But what she meant was she had no idea how committed I was to it. I do my writing sitting on the commuter train for an hour every morning on my way into the city, and sometimes on the way home, too. No one I know sees me do this. Our writing group meets every month and members hardly ever miss a meeting because this is important to us and we know it doesn't work if you try to do it any other way. "That's a lot," my friend said. "I know, I don't even see you that often," I said, and she's one of my favorite people. How did one of my best friends not know how I spend so much of my time? You can tell people all you want, but sometimes it doesn't really sink in until they see it. Your friends and family want to see it. They love you.
4. It was a party. We had fun. I met new people and got to talk to the members of my writing group's spouses, who normally run past with a wave if they're seen at all while we're meeting in their homes. Randomly two women I grew up with were there and it was a hoot to see them. Good things happened. But one of the best things was that, while I admired each member of my group greatly before this party, I now appreciate them even more after. I was proud of each of them. I felt connected to them in a new way. We had done something new together and succeeded. We’re invested in each other’s careers. We’re a stronger unit because of it.
I have never hung out with anyone in my writing group outside of our monthly meetings. I have no connection to any of them outside of this group. I lucked into this incredibly supportive little community. I plan on sticking around for the next eleven years. Will we do this again? Most definitely, and probably a little sooner than our 22nd anniversary.
Now go forth, writing groups, and party.