I’ve never been much of a ‘joiner’ but last year, I decided that I was spending more time secluded than was really healthy. So I joined a writers group. I’ve always been a member of the Queensland Writers Center (possibly the best writers center in the country) but this one, Scribblers, is a small group of local writers. We all have different levels of experience, different successes and subsequently, different understandings, points of view and perspectives on nearly everything; and that’s what makes it great!
Tonight at my group, I got hints and tips on promoting my book about the place (from someone with more experience in these things than I). I gathered some lovely insight into process from a couple of members who may or may not have realised I was listening as closely as I was. I received a wonderful compliment on Willow Farrington Bites Back from a member whose niece still struggles with an eating disorder and who said to me “It was so true! I read it and I could really see parts of her in it.” AND I was forced to explicate my goals for the year. That’s very important. These guys will keep me to my word, so I’m already thinking about what I will have to do in order to impress them with my tenacity and productivity!
In addition to all this, I’ve come away feeling part of a thriving, positive community. That means a lot to a girl who’s never settled anywhere long enough to become a part of anything community oriented.
Not all my attempts at ‘joining’ have been so successful. At one stage I joined a book club for writers. It was awful. Full of pretentious people who were eager to impress with their superior insights and wit. They selected books to read that were at once overly wordy and immensely depressing (slit your wrists and nap in a warm bath kind of depressing). It was exhausting! I bit my lip a LOT. I went home feeling cowardly, estranged (from a group with whom I thought I ought to be able to identify) and largely inadequate. Needless to say, within three months, I disappeared from that group and it took some time for me to work up the courage to join anything again.
So, my tips for joining groups, writers and otherwise:
- Only join groups concerning things in which you’re really interested (don’t join for the men…there aren’t that many)
- Don’t judge too quickly (give them three months of your time before you bow out, everyone needs a settling in period)
- You only get out what you put in. If you want to learn something you must be willing to stick your neck out and ask a question. By the same token, you should offer advice when you have it to give!
- Be broadminded. Groups, by their nature are made up of a variety of different personalities. You won’t like them all, but that doesn’t mean they have nothing to offer.
- Leave if it’s awful. This is not the school basketball team. You didn’t sign on for a season. If the group isn’t for you, get out and try something else!