A Circle of Trust

It’s been fifteen years since I’ve been in a writer’s group. Not coincidentally, it’s been fifteen years since I was living an art-committed life.

A circle of mistrust, the mouth of a cannon atop the Citadel in Quebec City. The fortress, built in the early 1800s to repel an expected American invasion, is the reason the U.S. never invaded Quebec (well, so the locals told me).

Last week I participated in an inaugural meeting of a writer’s group. We cobbled ourselves together in various ways — one posted her card on a writer’s center bulletin board, others met each other in writing classes, and two connected via Twitter and their respective blogs.

There are seven of us, quite diverse in many ways. We have varying writing projects — a sci-fi novel, a memoir, a creative nonfiction book, a play, a cookbook. We are a range of ages, professional backgrounds, and interests. Of those who are parents, the children’s ages range from infancy to adulthood.

We all have a few things in common, however.

We all desire the motivation to write that comes with a deadline to share work.

We all seek constructive feedback on our writing.

We all crave being a part of a trust circle of fellow creatives, where we can share our dreams and struggles without judgment.

It’s early yet, but I think we’ve found all of those things. I’m very optimistic, and I can’t wait to receive those first pages from my fellow group members.

Are you in a writer’s group, or a group of creative peers? What advice do you have for how to assemble one or ensure one succeeds?

About Patrick Ross

I'm the author of Committed: A Memoir of the Artist's Road.

29 Responses to “A Circle of Trust”

  1. This is great! I just finished finished writing a post about this similar topic and am waiting for it to go live on the “Today’s Mama” website.

  2. Yes, I am part of a writer’s group. It was in existence before I joined so it is run like a sharing workshop. One person facilitates giveing writing prompts for the first writing session. We share offer insight and then go to 2 or 3 more writing sessions based on whatever you are currently working on. Our group meets twice a month for 5 hours or a full day. We usually have 6 to 7 people come when we meet.

    • Wow, that’s fascinating. It almost sounds more like a program run at a writer’s center. It also sounds very rewarding.

      All of us in this new group have a lot of time commitments and probably couldn’t yet commit to two whole days a month, but this is helpful to consider going forward.

  3. I feel VERY fortunate to be part of a fantastic writers group. It took a long time to find–my only advice is to attend local conferences and writer gatherings and make connections. Word-of-mouth is the best way to locate other writers in need of a group or groups in need of additional members.

  4. Hi Patrick. I facilitate writing groups that encourage/support writers, but they’re than more about inspiring writers and helping them hone their voices than it is about publication. (more on that off-line if you’re ever interested …)

    The thing might be of interest to you is what we do to make space for more focused feedback on works-in-progress/work being developed for publication. I follow a method based on Liz Lerman’s Critical Response work ( http://danceexchange.org/projects/critical-response-process/ ). I HIGHLY recommend it; it’s such a wonderful, supportive way for any artist to improve learning and strengthen their work.

    It’s awesome x fabulous.

  5. Kate Arms-Roberts Reply April 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Great news! I hope it’s a good group for you.

    I have been trying to figure out exactly what I am looking for in a writer’s group. I belong to a writer’s networking and support group and an online crit group, but I think I really want a crit group that meets in person once a month.

  6. I’m jealous. I still wish I had time to participate. I do have a writers’ group composed of a friend and I. Our lives are in sync right now so it works out well. I think a writers’ group is invaluable!

  7. Funny! I had been thinking about writing a blog entry on something similar for next week. Hmmm, maybe I should put that one hold. Great minds think alike! πŸ˜€

    I am part of a Mastermind group, and we have been together for about 3 years. We have read books such as The Artist’s Way and Three Cups of Tea and looked at what we could learn about our businesses/how we can support each other. The last three meetings the group has generously (of their own choosing/suggestion) supported me in creating and developing my workshops. Whatever is needed, when it’s most needed … we are open to doing it.

    I liked that we did books like “Unveiling the Heart of Your Business” and “The Artist’s Way” in the beginning of our group, because it had us digging deeply and developing trust and support.

    Our focus is on business support, whatever that looks like. Two of us are professional artists, two are hobby artists (one owns a rental townhouse on the beach, the other is a nanny and personal coach). So it’s not quite the same as what you are up to. But I think what can translate is A) look for ways to develop deep trust in the first year B) be flexible in your agenda, and willing to make changes so you can best support each member’s needs.

    Enjoy! πŸ™‚

    • I hadn’t thought of us starting with reviewing a common book. Certainly The Artist’s Way is a staple.

      • I had done it before on my own, but it was valuable to do it again with a group. πŸ™‚ We’ve also done Vein of Gold and we are now doing Finding Water. Of course, we aren’t a critique-type group, so it works for us to do that.

        Good luck with the group and enjoy the synergy that comes with it!

  8. Oops, one more suggestion … if you keep the grouping small, each person is most likely to get the individual attention they need, when they need it. With Mastermind, the suggestion has been keep it to four, which we did. You get to say what the number is that works for you.

  9. I am in a writing group and love it- I agree with Amy- its difficult when the group is too large as it can get unwieldy- but a small group of supportive people are invaluable. Mine is a virtual writer group since we don’t have the time to meet in person, kudos to you on this- and as always admire the commitment you have made to live a creative life!

    • We have seven, but we’re in two teams. Three will be discussed at the meeting, the other four will receive written feedback, then we change teams the next meeting. I have no idea if that will work, it’s what we came up with to make sure we didn’t just rush through work at the meetings.

      Thank you for the kind words

  10. I believe that a small group that offers trusting and honest criticism is of great benefit. I would love to have a group like that. I’m not sure how to go about creating one, but you have put it front of my mind. Meeting in person (as opposed to online work) is critical in my mind so that you can have healthy exchanges and see facial expressions.

    • I agree about the importance of meeting in person. As to starting, I’ve wanted to do this for months now and it is only just coming together. I think as Cheryl said, you have to reach out into your local writer’s community and start looking.

  11. I’m in training with a new critique group right now. I moved last July and was sad to leave my group in Texas. I think group members need to be honest, be open to edits, be able to give time to fellow member’s work and be on the same page β€” such as publication and improvement goals.

    • Interesting you spoke about being open to edits. I think some folks may be a little resistant to too much editing at first. I suspect over time, as we get to know each other more and develop both trust and respect, we’ll all be more open to substantive criticism. I know I will be.

  12. I’ve been a member of a writers group for over a dozen years. I’ve found that writing from prompts loosens us up and jump-starts our creativity. We also critique each others work, but I think it is the writing together that creates trust and community. Out of our years of writing together, we published a book, “Coffee and Ink: How a Writers Group Can Nourish Your Creativity.”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] on Writing Without the Drama: This post spoke to me, because as faithful readers of this blog know I just helped launch a writer’s group […]

  2. Revealing Yourself Through Your Art « The Artist's Road - June 13, 2011

    […] cheated a bit, sharing this submission first with my writer’s group. Last week these new friends told me my prose is rich with description and crisp in its utilitarian […]

  3. Creativity Tweets of the Week — 8/5/11 « The Artist's Road - August 5, 2011

    […] “Top 10 Ways to Spice Up Your Writing,” Melissa Donovan, guest post at The Top 10 Blog: A lot to learn in this clever post structured around meal preparation, with an enticing #10: Stay for drinks. (Related post to #10: A Circle of Trust) […]

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