(The importance of finding your own “writer’s pack.”)
I began my writing journey when I was in the fourth grade and teachers would assign writing exercises – you remember, don’t you? The ones where they give you a topic, like going to the moon, and you got to fill in all of the blanks? Oh, after just a few of those create writing prompts, I was hooked for good on writing. 🙂
In middle school, I focused on poetry (a lot of sad poetry because those years were rough but also the regular teenage stuff of lamenting that my crush didn’t know I existed). But it was also the beginning of me attempting to write novels. And I say “attempting” because I was never able to finish. It wasn’t until many, many years later that I finished a novel (I was around 30).
So why couldn’t I finish a novel?
First, I lacked discipline when I was a young writer. My attention span – especially when I was in middle and high school wasn’t where it needed to be to be able to finish a novel.
Second, time – this one has me nervous now, as this week starts grad school classes for me. But a major hinderance to finishing a novel in high school, college, and the first few years of my adult life was my lack of time. Or maybe more accurately, my lack of time management. If you’re sneaky enough with schedules, I’d imagine that you can make anything happen (that’s my hope, at least).
Third, and most important was support of fellow writers. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had the support of my family and friends for my writing (they are my oldest and most loyal fans). However, for quite a long time, I did not have a writing pack – a group of like-minded people to help you along this strange journey of writing. And we need them more than most, since writing can be a very lonely process.
Believe it or not, once I found my pack and we committed to meeting once a week, my first two issues of discipline and time management were crossed off. Why? Because I was dedicating a place and time for writing. And even more than that, there were people I was committed to seeing, who would know if I didn’t show up.
My group served as a writer’s support group and gave help that only other writers could provide. Do you second guess your story and yourself too? Is your writing progress as slow as mine is? Should I outline? Should I bounce around from scene to scene or try to write chronologically? How often should I edit (while still writing my novel)? Should I blog? My writer’s group helped me with all of these questions and hopefully, I’ve helped them as well.
As the group grew, we also became supportive in other ways as well – reading small snippets of novels to make sure things were on the right path, going to poetry sessions to support artists reading their works out-loud, and volunteering to beta read and help edit completed works. (Though honestly, it’s my opinion that you need to work your way up to this point and not merely show up at an event and demand that people edit/critique your work when they don’t even know you yet).
Also, as my writing pack grew and as I grew as a writer, I found myself able to share my own experiences with other writers. Giving advice on tricks and tips that have worked for me as a writer and cheering others along in their own endeavors, which has been my favorite part of the writing group. 🙂
Moral of the story – if you want to really succeed, join a writer’s group. Not only will it help you to grow as a writer and let you meet some really great people, it will allow you to help others as well. 🙂