Why Writers Groups Are Your Personal Champions
To coincide with Fight Club’s 20th Anniversary and five years since our Write Club first started, I wanted to pay tribute to both!
After I graduated University in 2014, myself and the other writers from my course all formed a writers group which we
cleverly thoughtfully aptly named ‘Write Club.’ Now, I’m not sure if it was meant to be a pun on Fight Club … I don’t think so, because we literally scribbled ideas and drew it out of a paper cup, then everyone voted on their favourite. And somehow Write Club stuck.
We were so excited! It felt like a… 21st Century Bloomsbury Group.
Please don’t laugh. We were a writers gang. Okay, you can chuckle a bit.
We were onto something big.
Now I’m about to break the first rule and talk about Write Club. But first, I have to go back to the beginning.
So at University, I studied English Literature with Creative Writing, which involved a lot of reading and naturally – a lot of writing! When I was in my first year, we were encouraged very quickly to share our work and read our personal stories out loud. To total strangers. The great majority of us would clutch our notebooks to our chests, shaking out heads furiously in protest, whilst the confident ones did as they were told.
We quickly learned that keeping our voices to ourselves was not an option. “If you want to make it as a writer, you must get over this phobia!” One tutor politely yelled.
And that was us told.
Like dipping your toes into icy water, we started reading snippets of classwork, homework and with each class, we gradually fell into a trust system with the rest of the group. As long as it was just us, select few in the class, we could write and share absolutely anything. No rules, no judgment, no harsh criticism. Just ‘gentle advice.’
We even set up a group on Facebook: Westminster Creative Writers 2010. We shared feedback, frustration and funny stories. I felt part of something. Who else but these guys would understand the ‘writers block?’ Who but these guys would understand the sheer panic of only having a 1,000 word deadline but so many ideas bouncing around your head? Who but these guys would understand the hassle of chopping every single paragraph to make the word count?
The trust and bond between us only strengthened during second year. Heavier assignments, new tutors and learning new writing skills. We’d watched each other grow as writers and people, starting a journey and hoping to see it through to the end. That’s what everyone hopes for when they start University right? It’s what I hoped for. I looked forward to seeing everyone’s success.
But then I had to repeat my second year.
It was only two Literature modules, but that meant I got held back, whilst everyone else moved on. Including two of my best friends, who studied Literature and were in most of my classes. I had a whole plethora of feelings but to sum it all up in four words: it sucked big time. In fact, I’ll probably do a whole
rant post on it, so watch this space.
Keeping the personal
grief annoyance to the back of my mind, I fired off a goodbye message to the rest of the writers group on our message board, saying I’d miss them but wishing them all the luck for final year. They all responded with such warmth and genuine sadness for the situation, but I didn’t feel any better.
Man, it was rough.
Now I had to hit the reset button. Not only did I have any writing classes for that year, but I had to make a whole new bunch of friends. When I did finally make it to third year, I had to join the new writers group. I’ll nickname them the ‘new crew’ to avoid confusion. And I knew how close these
‘writer types’ writers can be. I remember well from my own group.
Sure enough, our first briefing of final year Creative Writing, there they all were, chatting and high fiving each other. Okay, maybe not literal high fives, but you know what I mean. They were pretty damn close. I felt like the awkward kid at parties who only sat by themselves in the corner, sipping a Bacardi and coke whilst eyeing up the clock.
First time I had to read my work out to the ‘new crew,’ I felt so nervous. I didn’t know if they’d like my work, therefore they wouldn’t like me. I’d like to say it took ages for me to warm to everyone and vice versa but actually…. it didn’t. Not at all. I slotted in nicely with this new lot. We were all as crazy as each other! The new crew, became my crew. Thus, the early stages of the Write Club was born.
When we graduated, there was a sense of ‘what now?’ How are we meant to keep the creative momentum going? It’s hard to find the time to write whatever you want, when you want. At least when we were studying, we were forced to make the time to write, due to assignments and whatnot. Now we were free of those chains, but had a lot of other commitments. I had a Summer job, working for the NHS and preparing for my Masters in Creative Writing.
(Take a shot whenever I say Masters) My friends, similarly were busy with their lives.
Long story short. We fell into a rut.
During the entire Summer, I planned to write a novel.
Don’t laugh, it’s possible. It was called ‘The Dandelion Chain.’ Working title. And I really wanted to write this story. Summertime was the perfect time to get it done, because I’d graduated and hadn’t started my Masters yet. (Drink!) It was the only ounce of freedom I’d had/have for a long time and I intended to savour it. Creatively. This was it, this was my moment to actually get stuff done!
I wrote two chapters.
It was the confidence I now lacked! A writer can’t read, edit and judge their work all by themselves! They need creative input from outsiders. Someone who isn’t emotionally and creatively involved with the story and the characters.
Basically, I missed the group. I missed sharing my work. I missed the excitement of having something to present. And truth be told, I also lacked the motivation.
Then about a week before I was due to start my Masters
(drink!) We got an invite to a new Facebook group, setup by one of our writers, Anna. It was called ‘Writing, plus tea, plus each other.’
It was an invitation to all of us creative writers (class of 2014) to meet up in a cafe and share our work with each other. It would be the first Sunday morning
we were creatively motivated to get out of bed of the month. And Anna created the group specifically so we wouldn’t lose touch. We could share any work in progress. Poems, stories, ideas, anything! It was… everything we wanted. And more.
So in September 2014, we all crammed into a tiny room in Timberyard Cafe, in Seven Dials, Covent Garden. There were a lot of us so we had to push a couple
four tables together. Some of us perched on the end, squishing into each other, jostling for elbow room and pretending we could breathe.
Using a timer (we had to ask the lovely staff for one) each of us got fifteen minutes to share our work or idea. At that point in time, I was still working on my novel and eager to share the idea of the story first. I was leaning toward the idea of using my work in progress as my final writing project for my Masters
(drink!) so I can kill two birds with one massive stone and actually get some work done! Hopefully even finish the novel. And because I was doing my Masters (drink!) at the same University, they knew all the tutors. They were able to support and advise me on who to choose and who to avoid as my supervisor.
As the months grew on and I fell in deeper with my Masters
(drink!) I quickly realised how grateful I was for this group. The first Sunday of the month was something I really looked forward to. Especially because I was getting a lot of criticism from a select few of my MA classmates and it made me doubt myself as a writer. (I’ll do a post on it another time, watch this space).
Everyone in the Write Club gave me such support and advice like, “Keep going, don’t give up!”
“Christina.” They’d say, a look glimmering in their eyes like they wanted to save me, “You can always talk to us about anything! Don’t feel disheartened!”
It became a thing. We’d meet in the cafe, drink tea, read our work, then schlep off to a pub in Trafalgar Square.
The Write Club lasted for a year.
I’m actually surprised we kept the momentum going for so long, if I’m honest. It was briefly resurrected the following year but most of the group had disbanded. One by one, we all just… fell away.
Even though we only lasted for a year, being part of a writers group helped me a lot. They kept me grounded during a time when I would’ve easily drifted away and abandoned my creativity altogether.
So, if you’re a writer who’s too afraid to share your work or feel like you’re lacking in support – find a writers group. Go online and scout for a forum to see if there are any local writers groups you can join. If anything it will keep you motivated to write and keep on riding that creative train! (But obviously be careful who you meet. Like everyone online, you have to be vigilant! ) And if you have a group of writers whom you know… start a Write Club of your own! Pick a cafe, choose a time and run with it.
I promise, from one writer to you, it will help in the end.
Here. Have a picture of Brad Pitt in his prime to sign off this post! 😉