I’ve been reading Priya Parker’s book, The Art of Gathering, and it’s gotten me thinking about why and how we gather for various occasions. And why specifically do we writers gather?
Support and accountability are the usual reasons. Many of us are writing at home, alone, and it helps to know that someone else has our back. It’s important that we have at least one person in our corner.
But why else do we gather? What are the deeper reasons behind our coming together?
Here’s what I’ve found over 20 years of teaching writing to various communities and levels:
Writing groups spark creativity.
I can discuss the same topic until I’m blue in the face, but there’s something magical about the back-and-forth that happens within a larger group. It often sparks creativity as well as leads to the next level of breakthrough.
We walk away with ideas that wouldn’t have occurred to us on our own, including a new way into our story (or a new way out). Oftentimes, hearing someone else’s struggle contributes to our own clarity, even if it simply opens up a crack for the light to come in.
Having your story acknowledged is a gift.
In this busy day and age, it’s essential to have our stories acknowledged in a safe, welcoming way. Sometimes we look to friends and family members to fulfill this need, especially when we’re working on writing that’s close to our heart.
However, more harm than good tends to happen when we share a story prematurely, especially if we’re still writing our way through it. Much better to protect that story in its earlier stages and share it only with people who’ve earned the right to hear it, as Brene Brown recommends.
There’s wisdom in the larger group.
I’m currently teaching three different classes and I’m always amazed at the magic that arises from each. Each group is its own solar system, with its own chemistry and magic. We might be talking about the same topic, but each group finds infinite ways into that conversation.
Each person shifts and expands the group with their unique background, expertise, viewpoints. And that combined wisdom becomes a force to be reckoned with.
Each person matters.
If you join a group built on safety, inclusivity and confidentiality, each voice matters.
There’s such wisdom to be gleaned from someone whose background differs from your own, especially if you’ve taken the time to vet whether or not the group is a good fit for where you’re at and what you’re needing.
We inspire each other.
I’m constantly humbled by the grace, grit, gifts, grief, tenacity, wisdom and laughter that come with being human. Hearing someone else’s wins (as well as their challenges) helps us with our own.
When we know we’re not alone, we can move mountains.
We learn just as much (if not more) from reading our fellow writers as we do getting feedback on our own writing.
This one’s the secret we writing teachers talk about but don’t often broadcast.
So why is it important?
Because most folks folks think they’re taking a writing workshop to get feedback on their writing without realizing there’s a larger alchemy taking place.
For most of us, it’s easier to see what’s working (and not working) in someone else’s writing than it is our own. We might recognize that the pacing’s off in our story, for example, but not know how to fix it. But read another writer’s piece and it’s suddenly clear where the story drags. In giving suggestions as to how we might fix that, we learn how to strengthen our own.
These are a few of the gifts that I’ve found though good writing communities.
However, it’s just as important that you take the time to find a good fit. Join a kind and supportive group that calls to you, with a teacher to match (or find an ass-kicking one, if that’s what calls to you). But don’t go jumping from group to group in a misguided effort at belonging (been there, done that). Instead, take the time to talk with your folks and make sure you’re all on the same page.
This is the key to finding a writing workshop that works for you.
I’ve been through years of writing workshops (as a student as well as teacher) and they cover the gamut—truly. Workshops that aren’t a good fit can wreck havoc. Workshops that are a good fit can help heal. (I believe that, by the way.)
If you’re looking for a writing group, I have two offerings to share with you.
My next 3-month biweekly Writer’s Workshop starts Feb 4 and meets on Zoom. I also teach writing courses through Lighthouse Writers Workshop and have two upcoming introductory courses in Feb and March; details below.
A three-month writer’s group to provide you with accountability, community and writing support.
- Feb-April 2020
- Live, biweekly calls on Tuesdays 12-1:30pm MT/ 1-2:30pm CT
- 2/4, 2/18
- 3/3, 3/17
- 3/31, 4/14, 4/28
Where: on Zoom.
What we’ll be doing:
- Writing 10 pages a month (or 30 pages total).
- Getting feedback on 10 pages of writing twice during our 3 months together (or 20 pages total).
- Group writing time (30 min. each time we meet).
- Q&A and/or informal teaching topic each time we meet.
- Weekly check-in with your accountability buddy
Who: Limited to 6 writers
How much: $249
Who is this for?
The Writer’s Workshop is a good fit for you if you’re looking for:
- Dedicated writing time (2x month live writing with our group).
- We’ll be writing 10 pages a month (30 pages total). On the off-weeks, you’ll check in with your accountability buddy.
- Deadlines! You’ll have the opportunity to share up to 20 pages with the group (10 pages twice), receiving feedback on your writing.
- Help discerning what’s working with your manuscript as well as opportunities for growth and help with next steps.
- Teachings built around group needs.
- Community support.
This isn’t a good fit for you if:
- You’re looking for a lecture-style class.
- You’re not able to attend the bi-weekly Zoom calls live.
- You don’t want feedback on your writing.
- You’re not willing to show up for the other writers in the group as well as yourself.
- You don’t have the time and/or headspace to commit to yourself and our group.
If you’re interested in joining this round of our Writer’s Workshop, please email me to ensure you’re a good fit as well as to reserve your spot.
Note: Please carefully consider your level of commitment before registering. Since community, support and accountability are integral to the success of our group, there will be no refunds for the Writer’s Workshop.
These are live, in-person classes offered through Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop.
Please note: registration for these classes occurs through Lighthouse.
Feb 5: Gotta Start Somewhere (4 week in-person workshop)
March 16: Gotta Start Somewhere (4 week in-person workshop)
If you’d like to work with me in a group setting, these are the ways to do so over the next few months.
Wishing you a wonderful week!
P.S.: In other updates, I may teach an intermediate/advanced memoir workshop at Lighthouse this spring as a follow up my current LH memoir class. If that calls to you, please reach out for more info.
I also wanted to let you know I’ve had to postpone my one-day Reboot Your Memoir virtual retreat and am currently looking at dates in March. Possible dates include:
- Wed March 11 (9-2pm MT/ 10-3pm CT)
- Sat March 14 (10-3pm MT/ 11-4pm CT)
- Sat March 21 (10-3pm MT/ 11-4pm CT)
If you’ve had your heart set on this workshop and would like to vote for a certain date, please email me directly at tanja [at] tanjapajevic [dot] com. And if you’d like to read a full description of what this virtual workshop entails, click here.
As always, please reach out with questions!