Why Bother Belonging?
I do not belong to any associations. I do not pay any dues to be a member of any particular club. I do, however, belong to a writer’s group.
Similarities and Differences
My writer’s group is small, six members total. We meet once a month. Our format, though flexible, includes critiquing each other’s work. Yet, even if someone doesn’t submit something to be edited, no one is criticized for it. Everyone has their “dog days” or even “dog months.”
Our group is all female. Though we’ve had a few males come and stay for a month or two, none of them made the commitment to stay for the long haul. Women can be competitive, yet we don’t compete against each other. None of us write the same genre. There are those in the group who are historical fiction writers while others write mystery, young adult fiction and steampunk. I am the only non-fiction writer of the group. We are not brutal with our reviews of each other’s writing. We are very honest, and kind. We do not not patronize. Since flattery has a tendency to falsify, and inflates someone only temporarily, we choose to encourage and inspire one another with truthful and constructive comments.
I am not sure how long I’ve belonged to this group of writers, but I remember how it all started. Knowing my interest in writing, a friend invited me to the group. I wasn’t sure if I could even associate with other writers. I wasn’t a published author, I just liked writing. Would I belong? The members, a larger group back then, welcomed me and explained the format. They all seemed much more knowledgeable and farther along than me in the journey of becoming authors. Yet, no one minded my questions or discouraged my curiosity.
I went back the next month with a piece of my own writing to share. I nervously waited my turn to read. My mouth went dry the moment I opened it. I felt naked, exposed and vulnerable to this new group of women I barely knew. They listened to me read and when I finished, they each took their turn to comment. They were kind with their remarks. Their statements did not demean me. Rather, they caused me to think about why I wrote what I wrote. Their views forced me to consider the words and phrases I’d chosen. In short, they made me take a closer look at what I’d only held at arm’s length. I went back the next month and the next. After a time, I was no longer the newbie in the group. Instead, I’d melded into becoming an “old” member, welcoming the newbies that came after me.
I’m not the same person who showed up that first time at the writer’s group. I’m no longer quite as naked and vulnerable as I was at the beginning. Instead, when I sit down at the table with this group of writers, I sense their rich knowledge, their willingness to be generous with it and the pleasure of our camaraderie. We are tromping together, along the writing trail.
Why bother to belong? It is worth knowing where and with whom you can affiliate. Becoming vested with a group ensures the help we need to steadily trudge in the direction we want to go. It only helps to belong.