One of the best things I did when I decided to become a writer was to look for a tribe. A group of writers where I felt I fit in. I didn’t know of any writers in my family, or among my friends. I’ve always read a lot, including the 1964 World Book Encyclopedia. (My Mom was so proud of it. And it was near the heat register.) And when I taught I enjoyed writing my own Bible studies or course work.
To me, writing for income or for the public was merely a dream. Most of the writers I’d heard of were either dead, preachers or professors, or lived in New York City. (Cue the Pace Picante Sauce commercial.) It sure was something anyone from my community could hope to have any success at.
Then I went to a writers’ group. Cross N Pens to be specific, which is now a part of Word Weavers. There I met people who lived around me and wrote articles that spread God’s message.
And they had found places to send them so people outside their family would read them. Now, that may not sound like a big deal to you, but it was eye-opening to me. I’d accepted that God’s plans were not for me to lead a big church or be a professor. And here I was learning magazines, publishers, and blogs that were looking for the articles I felt led to write.
And when I submitted some pieces to the group for criticism, they didn’t laugh. (Don’t look at me. Isn’t that one of our biggest fears before we’ve shown our work to anyone?)
Here are some general principles we all learn from joining a writing group.
1. Everyone has their own reasons for writing.
One of the things I like most about being a writer is that I don’t have to limit myself to one medium. You can write devotions, screenplays, novels, how-to books, TV series, all at once. We even see very successful novelists at the tops of their careers write a book in another genre or decide to write for TV.
I met a writer whose goal was to give his grandkids stories to show them biblical lessons in a way they can comprehend. I met writers who wanted to help other women, other moms, go through the struggles they had been led to. Just because they were writing for reasons that didn’t fit me didn’t mean we couldn’t learn from each other.
2. Writing is not a destination, it’s a journey.
This is especially true when you feel this is God’s calling to you. There are always new methods to learn and new stories to tell. There are new formats coming out all the time. And as you become efficient in one step, God often uses that to introduce you to someone or something different.
But you have to put yourself out there.
3. Even though writing is a gift, that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to learn.
One of the biggest surprises to me about the meetings were how everyone, even the writers we looked up to, were attending the meetings not only to get better but to help others grow in the profession and craft of writing. I was often the only guy in the group, but I didn’t care. I was with writers. People who understood the desire to express a thought in a way that others would understand and accept. And writers who understood the frustration of not finding the proper word to make a point.
4. There is a writing community waiting for you.
Whether you are still seeking how to express your thoughts, already been published in several glossy magazines, or have a couple of novels you’ve had published already sitting on the shelf, there is a group that has a place for you.
I used to love watching the TV show Castle. Here was Castle who was a world-famous mystery author, with thousands of fans everywhere he went. And one of the neatest recurring scenes they did was when he played poker with other famous, household-names, writers. And he didn’t miss it because he needed a place to share his ideas and be challenged to always take that next step.
As a new writer, I was surprised at not only how much I learned from others, but how much I could help them. We all have unique experiences, skill sets, and mindsets. It is by sharing with each other we can more fully look at a situation and find the words that best reach our readers.
I first challenge you to find a local group that you can attend in person. One of the benefits of attending the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference is when you meet other writers from your town or state.
But if finding a local group is impossible where you are or in your circumstances, there are several online groups you can join. ACFW, Word Weavers, and Sisters in Crime have virtual groups you can join where you can have people look at and critique your work.
I know I am missing several. If you are a member of a writing group that is still accepting members, please mention it and share the link in the comments.
I want to wish you the best wherever you are in your writing journey. Thank you for stopping by.