Writers Unite! How To Start A Writing Practice Group

by Bobby Gilles

in Church Communications,Songwriting/Hymn Workshop

Lion photo by Sojourn's Chuck Heeke

Consider this Chuck Heeke photo to be your first Writing Prompt ...

When we think of writers’ groups, many of us think of critique groups. In a critique group, each person reads or performs their song, poem or prose, then receives critique from the other members. You can learn and grow in such a group, but critique groups aren’t ideal for every writer or every situation.

Sometimes you need a Writing Practice Group. Ask yourself:

  1. Am I writing enough?
  2. Are the writers around me at a similar level of experience or skill, and ability to provide quality critique?

If the answer to either or both of those questions is “No,” then you probably need a Writing Practice Group more than a Writers’ Critique Group.

So What Is A Writing Practice Group?

A Writing Practice Group is a group that meets to write, for a set amount of time. The group can include people of all levels experience and skill, and even can include members across writing disciplines: essayists, songwriters, fiction writers, preachers and speech writers, poets and other practitioners of the written word.

Although group size and time involvement can vary, a typical group looks something like this:

  • 5-10 members
  • Meets 1-4 times per month, for 1-2 hours each time.
  • Each meeting typically includes 1-3 writing sessions/cycles
  • Each cycle lasts around 20 minutes.
  • After each cycle, members can perform their work aloud, although they can opt out.

Each writing cycle begins with a Writing Prompt — a word, phrase, sentence or picture that prompts the writers’ imaginations for that cycle. Examples of prompts might be a sentence like “Ethel swore she’d never eat another pancake,” a single word like “harbinger,” a Bible verse or an old photo of a man chopping wood while a boy climbs a tree behind him.

If you come to the Writing Practice Group with an idea or a project, you’re welcome to ignore the prompt or veer from it right away. The prompt is an aid for those who need it, not a roadblock for those who don’t.

During the “Read Aloud” portion, remember this is not a Writers’ Critique Group. This is a time for encouragement and self-reflection. As you’re reading aloud, you may hear potential revisions in your head. You’ll also note rough patches where the words don’t flow or where your listeners look confused. But if you’d like critique from one or more of the members, approach them afterwards about meeting privately another day, or exchanging emails.

During the meeting time, everyone should remember the primary objective: to write, write, write.

“Why can’t I do that on my own?” you may ask? Well, why can’t you? The Writing Practice Group is for those who need the built-in accountability and camaraderie of others who are engaged in the same activity.

¬†Photo above by Chuck Heeke, from¬†Sojourn “Seeing Made New” Photography Class Homework


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