The Unexpected Benefits of Critique Groups

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If you’re a member of one of WAG’s Critique Pods, you’ve already discovered the many benefits of sharing your work with a group. But, wait (as the commercials say), there’s more!

If you’ve never tried a writers’ group, poet Bruce Niedt outlines his “7 Reasons Why You Should Be in a Writing Group” in a guest blog for Writer’s Digest. They include evaluation, inspiration, education, information, publication, promotion, and socialization. This last one is the unexpected benefit of belonging to a critique group. Niedt writes, “One of the most rewarding benefits is the joy of sharing, collaborating, and forming friendships with fellow poets. Our merry band has attended writing conferences and festivals together, but we’ve also socialized outside the poetic milieu at parties, barbecues and camp outs.”

The 9 Bridges writers group began as a coffee house get-together group of friends who write and has grown to include chapters in Portland, Missoula, Phoenix, and Pasadena. Founding member Elizabyth Harrington writes in “Beyond a Critique Group”, that even though these groups are far flung, their members have developed contacts that turn into long-lasting friendships.

The article “Writing 101 – Starting a writing group” states that being a part of a writing group where you can pursue something you care about – writing – leads to improving your writing and making new friends.

A few of our own WAG members have found this to be true. Their relationships with the pod members have gone far beyond that of sharing their writing.

Susie Baxter writes:

When one pod mate had a baby, the rest of the pod threw a shower for her, and we’ve attended funerals together. I’ve stayed in touch with several former pod mates who moved away, or moved on to head up their own pods. Some of us still get together for lunch or go antiquing and junking. I even joined with one to throw a party for a mutual writer friend who moved away and returned for a visit.

She has found inspiration in a special fellow member through their discussions of a plethora of topics while riding together to and from WAG meetings. Memoir pods have a special place because, Susie writes, “Memoir pods in particular bring us close because we often reveal feelings in our writing that we have never shared with others.”

WAG’s former Program Coordinator, Carol Ray Skipper writes,

Being in a pod has introduced me to several caring, interesting, smart, talented friends. We have a tremendous, supportive bond. The door does not close after WAG.

She said that they meet for brunch and travel together to writing conferences.

I belong to several writing groups — two WAG pods and a group of writers that meet once a year for a writing retreat/workshop on St. George Island, organized and led by one of WAG’s own, Perky Granger. I met people at that retreat with whom I never otherwise would have come in contact. We come from different backgrounds and different parts of the state, but now we meet for lunch halfway between Gainesville and Tallahassee every few months and share news on a special Facebook page for our group. Several traveled to Gainesville for the day, and we hiked the La Chua Trail and had lunch at Chopstix.

One member of the St. George group, Lipika Frith, is a member of two additional writing groups. One meets monthly and has evolved into more of a social group. She said,

I have helped one birth her baby, we discuss new dates and divorces, we have slumber party / writing retreat events at each other’s homes. Sure, we bring writing and discuss the status of our projects, but we are more a close-knit family of writers. This weekend, we will all attend a play together. I can tell these ladies anything!

The other group is online, and while that group is more business-like, it began as a group of friends and serves to preserve that friendship.

In my own experience, I’ve had the good fortune to meet people outside my normal social circle, people I would have never met had it not been for joining the fiction pod. We have become great friends. We not only spend time outside the pod in lunch/writing sessions, but we’ve vacationed together with our spouses, shared new experiences, and learned from each other.

Sharon Ketts

So, if you haven’t become part of a writing group yet, you might want to give it a try. If there isn’t one in your area, start one! It could be the beginning of a life-long friendship. Bruce Niedt said in his “7 Reasons…” article, “They say writing is a solitary art, but there’s nothing like hanging out with your artistic buddies”

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Sharon Ketts currently wears many hats: writer, classical guitarist, museum docent, photographer, and Alachua County Elementary school substitute teacher. She has published articles and photographs in Soundboard magazine. She is working on a middle-grades novel that she began writing with her grandsons, as well as memoir and short stories.

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6 Responses

  1. Ann-Marie Magné

    Wow, Sharon — you do all that and still found time to write a great blog post. As a member/leader of an active, vibrant POD, I can affirm all “7 Reasons.”

  2. Joan Carter

    I agree wholeheartedly! As a retired business analyst, I initially felt I didn’t fit with “writers,” although I was interested in writing. As we became acquainted, however, I found that writers seem to be the kind of people I relate to especially well. Looking back now over years of participating in critique groups, I’m amazed at the number of friendships I’ve made there, some especially close, happy to celebrate special occasions with me and ready to help me in time of need.

    • Sharon Ketts

      Joan, I felt the same way about not fitting with writers when I first started with WAG. But I have met and become friends with some of the most fascinating people. We are truly a lucky bunch!

  3. Patsy Murray

    I agree with Ann-Marie and Joan. Although I am the longest-term member of our pod, (8 years) I have enjoyed getting to know each person in the group, their unique life experiences and writing styles. The consistency of a memoir pod provides an opportunity for deep friendships in a space of honesty, trust, and mutual respect. It’s like having high school classmates again, but with more freedom and no competition.

    • Sharon Ketts

      Bravo! I echo your sentiments.

  4. Lisa Rios

    I can definitely see how joining a critique group can help a writer beyond just his or her written pieces. While studying at the journalism college I felt more inspired and motivated to write more. Everyone should surround themselves with people with the same goals.