(Cross-posted with permission from Chick Flick.)
So Shanbone and I have been to some writing groups and those stories could be their own blog. (I’ll leave that task to Shannon; her memory is way better than mine. Why doesn’t her brain react to Diet Coke and age like mine does? Scientists: please weigh in.) We are in a group that Shannon started of her own spirited volition, and for which she deserves some serious credit – cos it’s a useful, successful, fun, genuine, productive, challenging, tasty (people bring food, y’all) and enjoyable writing group (haha, I wrote ‘enjoyable writing group’ and meant it) replete with the coolest chicks I’ve come across in my expansive lady search. Bitches Who Write should run a country!
So it got me thinking: What makes a great writing group?
WORK CAUSES WORK.
The first thing you need for a great writing group is a PUSHER. The PUSHER is the organizer. She pushes the drug. The drug is satisfaction of work. The high is completion. If you don’t have a good pusher, you’ve got no group and you ain’t getting high. Shannon’s a perfect pusher because she’s passionate about women writing together and making each other better. How do you find her? If you’ve got a vagina (or just want one – like really have made the effort), then join our group (email@example.com).
YOU NEED A PROMPT.
Get out of your head. Ask someone to direct you. You can’t do everything yourself: Writer, director, producer, editor, actor, critic and consumer. Ask for a prompt. Be challenged. You have no ideas? You have no stories? ASK FOR ONE, THEN WRITE ABOUT IT.
(I can’t come up with shit. OK, not true. I come up with some half-cocked joke or idea or recall a random story from my past that might work written down, but honestly, IT’S THIN IN THERE. But I do know when I’m inspired or just give myself the space and time and make the effort, I can come up with something worth reading. I think. Who knows. Judge me.)
The Pusher makes you write in silence for 30 minutes. 30 MINUTES. No TV. No music. No blah blah blahing with your girlfriend. No dishwasher. No day job. No Salvation. It’s you and the page for a sweet 30 minutes. When is the last time you did that? Yoga hustlers make time to mediate for 30 minutes every day (I might be making that up). David Lynch, that friggin’ transcendentalist, he does it. Then he writes for like 4 hours. So just do 30 minutes. Everyone around you is doing it too.
SEEK & HELP.
Read it out aloud. Seek criticism. Seek ears and brains that aren’t yours. It’s not the only way you’ll get better, but it is one way. OK, NOW I’M GOING TO CONTRADICT MYSELF SO STOP READING IF YOU CAN’T HANDLE IT.
[CAVEAT: YOU BETTER FUCKING KNOW WHAT YOU NEED FROM PEOPLE. This is important and probably worth its own website or like its own internet. (That would be such an annoying internet). I’ve been to many of these meet up groups for writers and for as much help they can yield, be wary of the dreaded opinion. These groups draw from all walks and experiences and TALENT and SANITY LEVELS. Ignore the idiots. You get better and better at it. But first off, just realize that there are tons of idiots and they must be ignored or you’ll be driven crazy by an idiot. WHEN YOU HEAR A COMMENT THAT RINGS TRUE TO YOU, YOU’LL KNOW IT. Also, don’t be the idiot. When someone reads their piece, be really thoughtful and honest.]
Listen. Just as you edit your own writing, edit your comments. Don’t self-indulge. Be helpful. And if you’ve had too much to drink THEN DON’T TALK AT ALL. LISTEN.
Now, read your shit. Do it. Be brave. Be humble. And when you read, if you hear a laugh, be proud. If you wrote drama, quit writing drama.
If you don’t live in the Bay Area but need writing support, follow @JaneEspenson or @jeannevb on Twitter who are two rad screenwriter ladies who organize writing sprints.