Creative writing circles

What are they?

Creative writing circles are groups designed to encourage and assist writers through contact with other writers with similar goals. The circle can be exactly as you wish to make it: large or small; highly structured or totally informal; intellectually rigorous or a gentle dining/drinking club for like-minded, creative people.

Directory of Writers' Circles in the UK: www.writers-circles.com/index.html

Some creative writing circles will insist that you produce new work for each session. Usually you will be asked to submit work in advance to your fellow group members, which they can comment on at the next meeting.

Should you join one?

Creative writing circles offer the major advantage of keeping you focused on your ambition. Regular meetings serve as a constant reminder of your intentions to be an active writer.

But you have to be careful to select the group that is right for you. You need to be with fellow writers who are sympathetic, able to offer constructive criticism – and essentially encouraging.

A good creative writing circle will:

  • help you to find your strengths,
  • show you new ways to think about writing,
  • provide a supportive environment.

It can be counterproductive if fellow members are insensitive, domineering or dismissive. Writers are fragile souls!

Remember that ultimately there is only one judge that you have to please: the person who is actually going to publish your work. All other commentators are just expressing an opinion, which may or may not be useful.

Building trust

A successful creative writing circle develops a delicate sense of trust. If you are going to expose your work to criticism, you want to be able to trust the judgement of fellow group members.

For this reason, it may be best to start with writing exercises: choose a writing task for each session, and write a new piece for that session. Do not start off by presenting your own precious project. You want to test your judges and see if you can trust their opinions, before you allow them to express their view of work-in-progress that is close to your heart.

And always remember the words of Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather: "Never trust anybody but yourself. That includes critics, friends and especially publishers."

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