by Barbara Crane
“If you ask me what I came to this world to do as an artist, I would tell you, as an artist, I came to live out loud.”
- Emile Zola, quoted by the actress Viola Davis at the 2017 Golden Globe Awards
To live out loud. That’s why I joined a writing group. I was filling pages of journals with my wanderings. A flyer came in the mail. It announced a writing group starting in a writer’s home forty miles away from mine—that’s forty freeway miles on Tuesday mornings in Los Angeles rush hour traffic.
I went once and never left. What do I have to show for it? Two published award-winning novels, several award-winning short stories, and lots of pages filled with memories, travel, family, aspirations, disappointments…a full life on paper. A life and an imagination lived out loud.
Why join a writing group? Consider these five pluses.
1—You are taken seriously as a writer once a week. My family sees me as wife, mom, and sister…the list goes on. My writing group sees me, first and foremost, as a writer. If I record my challenges on paper—in journal, memoir or fiction form—my struggles are taken seriously too. I am assured of a fair hearing based on my skills as a writer.
2—You learn what works and what doesn’t. I may think I’ve written the great American paragraph. My writing group may agree—or not. Whatever their verdict, I use their critique to make myself a better writer.
3—You may get valuable advice on publishing. To be honest, my writing group focuses on getting better at the craft of writing rather than on publishing. But members always are willing—and able—to help me on my path toward putting my work out into the world. I’ve received aid on every aspect of publishing, from drafting a query letter to getting an agent, to the pros and cons of self-publishing. In a group of writers, someone is bound to have the answer.
4—You get critique and support. Face it. You have to be willing to listen to some criticism if you want to grow as a writer. Your writing group will give you honest feedback, positive as well as negative. Because the feedback is given in an atmosphere of trust, critique is easier to accept. And then, you can choose to take their suggestions or not. You are in charge.
5—You have unlimited time to learn. When you sign up for a class, you have a semester. When the class ends, you decide ‘Do I sign up again?’ Will I learn something new a second time around? A writing group continues for as long as the leader wants to lead. People join or drop out, exposing you to diverse points of view. You learn and keep learning.
My writing group has given me the opportunity to live out loud. My wish: You’ll find a group that lets you live out loud too.
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Barbara Crane’s most recent novel, When Water Was Everywhere, won a Beverly Hills Book Award. She happily lives in Long Beach, CA with her husband, close to family and friends.
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