Both of the writing groups I lead met this week and I was struck both evenings by the high level of comments and compassion from the participants. Some of these writers are very good and some are are still developing basic skills. Some have been coming a long time to the group; others are relative newcomers. But their encouragement of each other and their careful listening is really inspiring.
Note that these writers belong to a writing support group and not a writing critique group. My own experiences with critique groups were so painful, I soon stopped going. I tried three and in each case, the groups seemed to run on fear and scarcity. Fear that they weren't any good and fear that there weren't publishing opportunities for everyone, and so they needed to make others feel less adequate in some way. I will admit that those experiences happened over 10 years ago and publishing has changed so much that perhaps critique groups are now less competitive. But back then, I needed support, not critique, so I arranged my own groups, where seldom is heard a discouraging word and we believe in everybody's right to write.
Here's some of what I see writing support groups offering. The opportunity to:
1. Read out loud before an appreciative audience.
2. Be heard by the same audience over time so they note your progress.
3. Ask questions about the writing process from others who are in that process. No question is too elementary to be entertained.
4. Receive encouragement no matter what your skill level is.
5. Listen to the same writers over time and note their progress.
6. Celebrate small and large writing successes with people who care about your creative expression.
7. Receive compassion and understanding when the writing isn't going well.
8. Feel safe as a creative.