Last night was my weekly meeting with the Arlington Writer’s Group. I met them several years ago through Meetup.com. My first meeting, the group was small. It apparently had only been around about 4 or 5 months. There were only 4-5 people other than me at he meeting.
The Meetup.com site seemed pretty organized and I have to admit, I was a bit intimidated the first time I went. I hadn’t shared any or my writings outside of my family or a couple of friends and I was a bit nervous. I met the de-facto and now actual leader of the group and a couple of other members. We met in the upstairs of a loud and smoky coffee house, called Murky’s, which sadly no longer exists. Or at least, closed down and was eventually transmogrified into Northside Social. Not the trendy, earthy, granola-y, local coffee shop of yester-month, but still pretty cool in its own right.
The group was doing a workshop on how to write an action sequence. The leader provided a passage from an action book requested everyone write the next scene.
I did not do the assignment, but I did bring a sample of my writing and read it out loud to the group. I was so nervous. They listened patiently and were very supportive. Nonetheless, they hit me with very kind but very honest feedback and critiques of my work. Up to this point, sharing with friends and family, all I had heard was soaring praise and encouragement. While it is nice to hear wonderful things about your writing, it is more useful to hear how to make it better! Let’s face it, Hemingway, I’m not. I might be able to weave a compelling story or amuse my friends with my witty reportage, but my fairy godmother did not wave her magic wand and make me the world’s greatest author.
Writing a novel was going to be work. I knew that. And I sought out a writing group to help me develop the tools to actually finish my novel and see it through to publication. And with this group, I think I found that.
They listened to my writing sample and I was amazed by the feedback. They poked holes and asked questions that I hoped to have answered later in the novel. They questioned every assumption I had about the novel and encouraged me to research and learn. And most of all write! After the meeting, the organizer encouraged me to return the next week. I was hooked.
The group was small, but the people were energetic. There is something about the act of creating art that is very satisfying and exciting. Sharing that energy with like minded people is infectious. It is probably that infectiousness that keeps me going and has grown the group from a few intrepid would-be writers to a membership roll of over 200 people. We often have meetings with 20-30 people in attendance.
Anyway, last night we had a social event. Our group meets every week. We read and critique each other’s work, have free writing sessions, organized prompted writing sessions and workshops on different topics. We do this all year long. Every so often, we just use the time to go out and have fun. We did that last night. We went to a pizza joint in Clarendon. We pretty much took over a large part of their dining area. More people tend to show up for the social events than the writing events. Twenty people RSVP’d to the event. We probably had closer to 30 at one point.
We love Pete’s Pizza Haven. The food is so good. They have gluten-free pizza and vegan cheese, which is a plus. And they will pretty much make whatever you want. They sell pizza by the slice and they sell Italian sodas that are made with all natural ingredients. So yummy.
Apart from the food, it is nice to just get together and talk. Like I said, more people show up for the social events, so I was able talk to several people whom I haven’t seen in a while.
I definitely recommend that if you plan to write, join a writer’s group. Find one where you share a love of the craft and true commeraderie and kinship with the members. It doesn’t have to be a large group. And it doesn’t have to be a group of professional writers, although it is helpful to have knowledgeable writers in your group. Most of all, you should find a goup that helps you feel inspired and excited about writing.
I always leave the meetings energized and excited to continue writing. I am glad I joined.