Guest blog: the bijou raconteur on writing groups

Today’s post is a guest blog from the bijou raconteur, aka Helen. Helen is 30 and is on a part time mission to get published, or perhaps win a competition or two. She has a BA in Writing from Middlesex University (but that was a long time ago) and has been lucky enough to be published in Mslexia (that was quite recently). She is a regular attendee and accidental organiser of her writing group and tries to submit at least one short story, somewhere, every month. Her favourite things are pink things, and she lives in Newcastle with her boyfriend (who is addicted to watching Peter Simon on Bid TV).

It took me ages to find a writing group. Most of the ones near me seem to be middle of the week, middle of the day, so an evening or weekend group is a rarity. But they’re a bit like buses…I waited ages for one and then two came along at once. One is a writing writing group, where we do an exercise and actually write, the other is a reading writing group where we get to read a piece we’ve spent a bit of time on. For the most part, the same people go to both groups so they merge into one, and for the most part, I get a lot out of it but there are definite pros and cons.

I’ll start with the pros…

I like saying I belong to a writing group. I think it sounds intriguing and geeky and unusual.

What are you doing this weekend?”

I’m going to my group.” Like a secret addiction, I picture us sat in a circle, taking our turns. “My name is Helen and I’m a writer…”

I like being forced to write. No colour coding my bookcase, no polishing the goldfish, just writing. I like the fact that I often write things that are unexpected. The writing exercises often take me out of my comfort zone. It’s a lovely splurge of writing, random subject, half an hour, bang! Sometimes what I write is pretty good. Sometimes it becomes a story that does something. Sometimes it’s crap, but even when it is, at least it’s words on the page. And we get the opportunity to read as well, so there is the instant feedback, which can be really useful.

I also like the fact that my writing group is full of weird and wonderful people who I wouldn’t have met outside the group. I’ve made one really good friend. I have a lot of respect for some of the people in my group, but…(and here come the cons) one, in particular, is really, really, really irritating. It’s a bit of a free for all, open membership group so we can’t stop someone from coming just because he talks about himself too much. And never listens. And continuously instructs us on what it means to be a writer (luckily, he only comes to the writing group. We haven’t told him about the reading one).

I don’t like having to get up early on a Saturday. My writing group is at ten am on the second and last Saturday of the month. I’m not a girl who likes having to be in the city for ten o’clock on Saturdays, I’d much prefer to be in bed. And sometimes, when I’ve dragged myself out of the house, and written something that I know isn’t perfect, the comments aren’t that useful. I want to be pointed in a different direction and told what I can do better. It seems like everyone is busy saying something nice and I prefer my criticism to be constructive which can be frustrating. And no one ever gets there on time. So there is a lot of waiting around, wishing people would just be on time. Which drives me a bit mental.

Overall, I think that the pros outweigh the cons. I feel guilty if I don’t go, so unless I’m away, or have been out on Friday night, I’ll be there (and I’ve started arranging my social life to fit around the weeks when I don’t have my group). So yeah, I might be irritated or frustrated, but hey, at least I’m writing regularly. Even if I’m whinging whilst I’m doing it.

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