Humans are social animals. We like to feel like we belong somewhere and we like to talk and listen to others. Writers are the same way. That is just one of the many reasons I think it is so important for writers to find others with the same passion and join a group. I know that for myself, I need others to look over my work. I want to make sure what I write on the paper corresponds with the image I have in my head. Also, when the rejection letters come in, it is easier to talk to someone who has a pile of their own verses someone who can’t really relate.
Writer groups also spawn ideas. Maybe a character or a setting in someone else’s story triggers a thought bubble for you. Perhaps Joan’s character reminds you of your Aunt Susie who used to talk to birds and eat peanuts. Then the word “peanuts” sparks your mind into thinking about those peachy hard marshmallow circus peanuts you ate as a child. That takes you to that summer day when you and your friends ran to the ice cream man and your one friend “purchased” an ice cream cone with monopoly money. You think about how ingenuous it was for your friend to con the ice cream man out of a free ice cream cone and then BAM a new short story is born.
Writer groups can also help you make connections. Maybe Mark knows of this great writer’s retreat and tells the group how everyone should consider going to it. Perhaps Josh knows of a great book you should read to help you out of the literary corner you boxed yourself into. It is a group of people with your same interest and they know people you don’t and that can turn into a very good thing for you.
Writer groups give you a sense of family. Sure, it can be more dysfunctional then maybe the Hogan family (yeah, I said it…so what…what are you going to do?), but it is a family created by a common goal and that in itself is a comforting thought. Being a writer can be very lonely. You sit all day with your computer (sure I have my Coke zero and Yoda, but others may not be so lucky) and your characters beat you up and demand all types of things you didn’t even think they would want from you, so isn’t it nice to have a place you can go to sit down and just breathe?
I say you should join as many groups as you can find. Even take classes if you have the means. Try them all out and see which one or ones work for you. As writers, we need to keep ever option open because you never know where it can lead you.