This past Sunday I had the rare treat of getting together for brunch with some of the members of Women Who Write, a community of women writers based in northern New Jersey. I had to drive two hours to get to the brunch since I live in far southern New Jersey, but I wouldn’t have missed it. Within Women Who Write, there are a large number of women with hugely varying interests in writing: poetry, children’s books, picture books, young adult, middle grade, fiction, screenplays, and the list goes on.
Members of Women Who Write are invited to join critique groups in which members submit pieces of writing for feedback by other writers. I am a member of the only online critique group in Women Who Write (all the other groups meet in person), and the members of my group write in several different genres. We are a mix of women of different ages with different careers and interests, but we have one passion that brings us all together…writing. We submit our pieces of writing once a month and a few weeks later each member of the group submits her critique of each submission.
At brunch on Sunday we got talking about the importance of being in a group, and I was thinking on the drive home that being part of a group, even if it’s just a group of two, can have a huge affect on a person.
First, being in a group makes you accountable to people other than yourself. There have been times when the women in my group, myself included, have been unable to submit because of other commitments or schedules that are way too full. But each of us feels like we’re letting the group down when we can’t submit. We have made a commitment and we know that in order for the group to work optimally for everyone, we all need to submit.
Second, being in a group helps you set and keep goals. Each November brings the NaNoWriMo challenge. For those of you who don’t know what this is, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it is an opportunity for writers from all over the world to challenge themselves to write a novel in one month. The goal is 50,000 words. The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that the challenge is the same for everyone. Not everyone enters the challenge intending to write a novel; lots of people join just to give themselves a kick-start, to see how many words they can write if they really focus for an entire month. But the goal of 50,000 words is there if people wish to give it a try. The amount of online support from the writing community is enormous, and that support is what helps many writers keep pushing towards and even beyond their goal.
Third, being in a group encourages you to meet people you might not otherwise have met. I am a member of a Pilates studio where I have met some wonderful people in my community that I would probably not normally run into in the course of my daily activities. They have become an important part of my day, and I miss seeing and talking to them when I can’t get to the studio for a day or two. They are a diverse group of people with interests and hobbies different from mine, and it’s great to get out of my own world every day and talk to these wonderful people.
Finally, being in a group is healthy! Whether I’m going to the Pilates studio or a brunch in northern New Jersey (or meeting other people while I’m walking my dog or going to a PTA meeting or the list goes on and on), I’m getting out and talking to others and maybe moving- just a little- out of my comfort zone. It’s great for my attitude and keeps me from getting bogged down by the things that go on in my own day. And on the rare occasion that I don’t enjoy my time in a group, well, that just helps me to appreciate the time I spend alone at my desk even more. And that’s good, too.
Are you part of any groups? I’d love to hear about your experiences.
Until next week,