Despite the sea of information online, I joined my local writers’ group because I sensed I was missing something fundamental.
If nothing else I reasoned, I would be in the company of other writers struggling to keep the faith in what can be a lonely pursuit. One of the lasting benefits of that decision is confidence I can now write on a cross-section of topics well enough to hold a reader’s attention. For that I give writing prompts the credit.
I had never heard of writing prompts before my first session with the writing group. But, by the session’s end, I had written for ten minutes on a topic sprung on the group by the member who had picked it. If that was not stressful enough, I had to wait for my turn to read to the group what I had written. How many times did I review what I swore was drivel five, ten, a hundred? When my turn came, I apologized for what I was going to read but, I discovered one of the group’s writing prompts rules: no ‘pre-apologies’. The group was lucky as the next week another aspiring writer joined us and with my unexpected seniority I was no longer the newbie. Besides, by then I understood the purpose of writing prompts.
You and your best friend are trapped in an elevator. When rescuers pry the doors open, you are about to kill your now former best friend. Why?
Write about a day in the life of a penny.
Describe a hot and sweaty day without using the words, ‘hot’ or ‘sweaty’.
Writing prompts? Yes, I offered my own.
The group was more than writing prompts. In covering the popular genres, it allowed a member to present current work. Once the writer or volunteers from the group had read the piece out loud, the group critiqued it. Not criticizing was key. Still, I thickened my skin for when my work was the target. For long-term one-on-one interaction, members paired up to review each other’s work. For me that meant I had to keep writing to stay ahead of my partner.
Writing skills and knowledge varied across the group. I didn’t know what a protagonist was or what third person omnipotent meant before I joined. Now, I can use a highfalutin word to describe my leading character and, I can name the writing style when, in telling the story, the writer lets readers know what each character is thinking.
The point here is not only does a writing group offer motivation and inspiration, members cross-pollinate their ideas, skills and points of view. While you are learning from others, they are learning from you. That can translate into no more sitting in front a blank computer screen and not comparing your draft to someone’s polished final product.
Yes, I recommend finding and joining a local writers’ group to anyone interested in writing, regardless of skill or experience. Every aspiring writer must join one. The benefits can be immediate and immeasurable.