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Memoir Writing – Five Tips For Jazzing Up a Life Writing Group

A good writing group can give you invaluable support and see you through to the end of your project. Regular meetings essentially become writing deadlines to complete portions of your project. Group deadlines can be very stimulating (after all, who wants to show up at a meeting and be the deadbeat who hasn’t brought any writing to share!)

5 Tips for Jazzing Up a Life Writing Group

A group is especially important if your mate or others in your life do not understand what you are doing and are disparaging of your efforts. (“Why don’t you just enjoy yourself at your age! Why do you want to write instead of going to the Tupperware party!”)

1. In forming a life writing group, the first people to look to are your friends, your relatives, or your mate. If you don’t know anyone who is interested in life stories, advertise or otherwise “go public” (church bulletin, poster at a bookstore or library, etc.).

If you specifically need the support of people similar to yourself, advertise in a newspaper of your ethnic group, of your vocational background, or of your religion.

If you do advertise in a general circulation magazine, be sure to identify those features that will be important to you in fellow writers (e.g., women in their 60s). (The first few times you meet with a group of strangers, consider getting together in a safe, public place like a senior center or a library rather than in a private home.)

2. A functioning group may consist of only one other person or of many others. Establish ground rules (meeting time and place, length of the meeting, regular operating procedures) and reassess these rules periodically to ascertain that they continue meeting your needs. Having a structure for your get-togethers will also encourage you to take the group seriously-even if there are just two or three of you.

3. After a few meetings, it will be obvious whether you can or cannot work with a particular group. Remember: you want to learn to write better; you have not come to learn group dynamics or to create long-term strategies to get people involved. Resist the urge to be a missionary, a counselor or a change agent. After a reasonable time, if the group is not helping you to meet your writing goals, assess whether you can change it to meet your needs. If you feel you cannot-or don’t want to, quit that group. It’s not the group for you. It’s that simple.

4. There are many reasons for a writing group not working. Some of these are: lack of chemistry between participants; too great a difference in education or experience; dependency or other emotional shortcomings on the part of members; discrepancies in members’ commitments to writing and to improving themselves as writers.

If the group is not working for you and you are convinced that it is not likely to meet your needs in the future, let the members know that you will not be continuing to meet with them. It’s not easy. I know, I’ve had to go through that process myself. It’s common courtesy, of course, to let people know you are leaving. It is also good practice in openness (a quality essential in the writer). Once you have made your decision to leave, look for or create another writing group.

5. When a successful group has done its work, let it end. Often, you will know the time has come to disband when usually-regular members begin to miss meetings or keep showing up late. Make a clean finish of it and let the members go off on their own-or, of course, you can continue contact (a social or writing connection) on some basis with whichever members you want!

Good luck with your writing.

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