Saying Farewell to Writing Group

I made the difficult decision earlier this week to step back from the online writing group I’ve been a part of for over five years. It wasn’t a choice I really wanted to make. My writing group is a bunch of really great people, and I enjoy meeting with them through Skype every other week. But the sad truth is that I’ve got a lot of things going on in my life, and I’ve been looking for ways to streamline things down a bit. Writing group, while fun, wasn’t an essential.

Of course, I feel bad saying that. I mean, I have time for watching movies and playing games with my kids. How can I justify not having time for writing group? But the fact is, I need downtime. I need time when I can just not be doing other things. Movies are a release, and family time shouldn’t need to be sacrificed.

So it was writing group.

I started the group back when I’d only been in Maine a short while, and I really missed being part of a writing community. I was busy, yes, but the need to rub elbows (even virtual ones) with other writers just felt too great. So what’s changed since then, that writing group could drop in level of priority?

A few things. I’ve got a lot more experience as a writer now, for one thing. I’m much more comfortable with my first drafts and the revision process in general. I’ve got some crack agents who give me great feedback, and I’m writing much more quickly than it feels like I used to. At the moment, I’ve got a book and a half writing group hadn’t gotten to yet, and with how things have been going, it was only going to fall further behind. This isn’t a slam on them. Just a natural consequence of reading books a chapter at a time over a long period of time.

What does my writing really need now? It needs alpha and beta readers. People able to read the whole book at one go and give me overarching comments. I feel like I’m usually pretty good on a chapter by chapter level at this point, and the comments I would get from writing group generally confirmed that. It was rare that someone would note a serious problem. Again, I’m not complaining about that, but it certainly felt like it had gotten to a point where chapter critiques were no longer where I needed to devote the bulk of my writing time.

But writing group wasn’t all about me. I really enjoy critiquing other people’s works and making suggestions on how to improve. I like having the chance to offer advice and help. To be there for other writers. I think I’ll miss that the most from my group. Even as I was “breaking up with them,” there was some really great conversations about writing motivations and skill that I just love talking about.

Maybe there will come a time when I’ll need to get it back. Maybe stepping away from writing group will show me just how necessary it was in my life. But for now, I’ll be sad to have it gone, but relieved that I can keep the focus on other things my life needs at the moment.

Anyway. It is what it is. Thanks for a great five years, writing group! You’ll be missed. (And if any of you (writing group or not) are interested in becoming readers for me, drop me a line. I need some good readers. Maybe that’ll be a post for another day, though.)

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