Monday, December 4, 2006


I’ve been involved with the same writer’s group for about a year and a half and I believe that after tomorrow’s group, we will no longer be in existence. One of the other members, a co-worker of mine, told me that he’s quitting at our meeting tomorrow, which brings us down to only 3 total members. I honestly can’t imagine continuing in the state that we’re in.

We’ve been sputtering along for a good 4 months, broken, but still running. It reminds me of when a car’s dying… you can feel it when you drive, but you can’t quite locate the problem. Is the rattling coming from the carburetor? Do I smell smoke, or am I just imagining it?

Overall, I feel conflicted about the writing group process. I’ve been involved in several writer’s groups over my life and they seem to all follow the same process.

1) At first, belonging to the writer’s group inspires me. I have deadlines and people to read my work and I love it. I burn through new work and I’m excited to discuss it.

2) At some point, I begin to slow. Perhaps it’s the monotony of a writing practice or the pressure of the same deadlines that once inspired me, but the writing isn’t as easy or enjoyable as it could be. I continue to plow through work, but it feels hollow and false.

With this current group, I’ve been at this stage for a good five months, if truth be told. For most deadlines, my writing has been mediocre, at best, and I feel like I’m just going through the motions.

3) Around the same time, I start noticing that I am receiving the same critiques over and over again. If the critique is constructive, rather than positive, it can turn cruel at times. Then, I’m molding my writing to fit this critique that I don’t necessarily agree with or understand. In some ways, it’s necessary to have this outside critique that gives you a different perspective. But in others, it’s claustrophobic.

In the case of the current writer’s group, positive critique handcuffed me to a project that they loved and I did not. Writing became this unbearable chore and I lost that feeling of immersion in my writing.

4) Members begin to spin off, equally disenchanted with the work and the group. There’s always an early exodus, before the true dissolution of the group.

With this group, we’ve been cycling through members almost since the inception. (I’m actually a newer addition than two of the current members.) Sometimes, losing the members allowed us to progress, but at other times, it seemed like we lost a certain momentum and cohesiveness when we lost key people.

5) Group dies completely. I’m left with a half done project and a desire to have an audience for critique, without all the drama.

I know I’ve painted this process in a wholly negative light, which is not entirely my intention. I am grateful to my writer’s group for helping me to commit to my writing over the past year and a half. I think I’ve made some big strides with this group, including my return to writing fiction after an 8 year commitment to poetry. I also believe I’ve made good friendships within this group and found some kindred spirits in the struggle to work and write at the same time.

But I’ve also, through this group, lost touch with my poetry (being the only poet in a group of fiction writers). I think, overall, I’ve grown as much as I can with this group and I’m left with the same old options: toil alone at my writing or find a new community, and hope for a way to break the writer’s group cycle.