Do you belong to a writing group? Recently, a judge for a regional poetry contest told me he was surprised at how few entrants belonged to one. “They are such a help,” he said, “and it’s obvious who doesn’t have the benefit of good critiques.”
Ouch! Who knew? I flew solo for years. My first published-in-a-book poem happened because I do write when ideas strike me (most of the time) and I happened to see the opportunity posted on my local library’s bulletin board. My next five resulted because a friend suggested I join her writing group. Last year, a judge for a contest I’d entered invited me to her writing group. I didn’t place in the contest, but this judge saw enough potential to invite me to a gathering that has several poets, many of with their own collections, and an abundance of English professors, at least one editor, and some librarians. As one friend, who also attends both, describes them, “One is like a writing workshop. We support each other and we usually write something at our meetings based on a prompt. This is good. But the other! It pushes me forward in my writing and the expertise in the group has taught me a lot.”
One of the main benefits I’ve gained from the second group is accountability. Sure, I try to write fairly regularly for the first group, but they’re very nice and let me off the hook way too easily. At the second group, you don’t get shamed if you don’t bring anything, but why waste so much wisdom and insight (and driving time, for me) by not bringing something? A few months ago I brought a couple of poems and received accolades for some of the phrasing and a lot of helpful suggestions. Someone even gave me a great title for one of them. Probably the biggest surprise was, “Bring these again. We want to see what you’ve done.”
Last month, I did exactly that. When I returned home, my biggest fan asked, “Well, how did they like them?” I told him they were well received and that a few people had reiterated their appreciation of my images. A few days later, as I incorporated the additional editing suggestions I’d received and prepared the pieces for submission, I finally read the comments people had written. Then I read them to my husband. “This is done now!” “I like this a lot.” “Wow!” “I can see what you’re describing.” Coming from accomplished writers and editors, the affirmations made my heart glow.
Why not do the same for yourself? You can search online for writing groups near you, or ask at your local library. If there isn’t one already, maybe you need to start one.