Writing Groups

Encouraging the creative
by Mary Oak,
Writing guide, developmental editor and author

Seven people sit in a circle at a table, writing. In response to a given prompt, each writes in their own rhythm: graceful, staccato, flowing or forced. It is quiet except for the scratch of pens on paper. Each writer makes their distinct mark, scribing self into world.

These writers gather regularly in a Writing Group, as many do, to share their stories. They write not as a profession, but for creative expression. Many use writing to reflect on life’s lessons in personal essays: childhood, coming of age, careers, family, travels, love, spirituality and values. Others write poetry, short stories, memoirs, novels, or nature essays.

To join with others who write is a powerful counterbalance to the solitary act of writing, Committing to show up with something to share provides discipline and accountability. At its best, a Writing Group offers co-encouragement, a place to sound one’s voice and gain perspective on one’s work. Meeting with writing companions also offers the gift of listening to others’ words, providing what Julia Cameron, who has inspired thousands of ordinary people to pick up the pen,  refers to as a Believing Mirror, “someone who believes in you and your creativity.” In a Writing Group, familiarity with the work and voice of creative friends deepens over time .

There are formal writing groups, led by trained writing guides, and informal ones without a leader whose members agree upon the structure. Writing Groups meet in coffeehouses, writing studios, bookstores, in members’ homes.  They can be dedicated to a specific genre or not. They can focus only on sharing writing brought from home, or include writing together, even collaboratively at times. Regardless of the form or the location, writing groups can offer support in the craft of writing, and a valuable cross-pollination takes place born of camaraderie between its members.

Mary Oak is author of “Heart’s Oratorio: One Woman’s Journey through Love, Death and Modern Medicine” (Goldenstone Press). Her writing branches the physical and metaphysical worlds. She teaches creative writing, and works as a writing guide and developmental editor in Seattle, specializing in narrative medicine and spiritual memoir. Her work has been published in journals in the U.S. and the U.K. She holds degrees in Mythopoetics and Sacred Ecology and a MFA in Creative Writing, both from Antioch University.

Seattle-area Resources:

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Inclusion in this list does not imply endorsement.