“A long time ago, when I was in graduate school, I joined a writers’ group. It was an informal workshop in which we intended to help each other finish and improve works of fiction then in progress. It didn’t last long. If I’m perfectly honest, it was a washout. I know writers who swear by such groups, thank theirs in the acknowledgements in their books, and advise new or struggling writers to find one of their own. I’ve no doubt that a good one, one with the right chemistry, is a fantastic support system and resource.
This one I joined, it was not that.
It wasn’t that we didn’t have good intentions; there was a lot of loyalty, critical admiration, and genuine fondness in the room, and — because there were human beings there — there was also a lot of insecurity. Every last one of us was eager to get and give help with our writing problems, but none of us really wanted to hear, or speak aloud, anything that might hurt. We quickly gravitated to talking only about one another’s best bits, drinking wine, and praising ourselves for getting the writing done alongside work, school, and other demands. It was like going to the gym and doing a few reps on the machines we found to be easy; it made us feel good about ourselves for a little while, but it really wasn’t making any of us stronger.
The group’s gradual, sputtering end was a little awkward, but when a faculty member asked whether I was sad to be losing my ‘creative community,’ I was able to say no; I had realized by then that what I really needed from a writers’ group, I was getting from role-playing. She shot me a look very much like alarm and asked, ‘You don’t mean like Dungeons and Dragons, do you?’
I did, and I do.”
Read more from Jen Van Meter’s original essay for Powells.com: http://powells.us/110RAck