We've all heard stories of the writer wrestling with his/ her novel, perhaps in a cold dingy attic, or maybe after the family have gone to bed, sitting up at the kitchen table, tap tap tapping away on the computer. Alone.....always alone.

Years ago I was lucky enough to meet with a group of writers and over time we formed the Lazy River Writers.  On the weekend we celebrated fifteen years together and I wanted to share fifteen reasons why this group works for me.

1. They make me accountable. I can't imagine turning up at one of our monthly meetings saying  I have written nothing. Not an idea down, not a first draft, not an edit of a haiku. Nothing. I'm positive over these fifteen years there have been times when this has happened, but it would be rare. I like the fact that this makes me do something, even if starting an ideas folder.

2. At the moment there are eight of us (a good number) and we have totally differing view points and opinions. Different lifestyles, occupations, beliefs, hobbies and interests. This makes feedback fantastic as it offers a well rounded viewpoint.

3. Celebrations. We celebrate all the big things, publications and acceptances, books appearing in different languages and overseas sales...but we also celebrate the small things. Often those things not considered worth a 'Yeah you did it'.....but sometimes when life takes hold and things are bleak, writing a simple poem or even getting a synopsis of your novel down is a major feat. Having people to help celebrate these events pushes you on.

4. There is always encouragement to try new things. New formats and genres....new points of view and perspectives...new ideas are never frowned upon. Instead they are actively encouraged and supported.

5. Birthdays go on and on for months.  There is always cake and candles, and small gifts (often of the writerly persuasion). You can never have too many notepads or pens!

6. What I find immensely interesting is that we all write in different formats and genres. We write non-fiction and journalism, poetry and short story, flash fiction and novels, picture books and junior chapter books. We've dabbled in memoir and erotica, romance and crime, plays and speculative fiction...which means that as a writer you believe you can attempt anything. 

7. After fifteen years we've seen it all. The highs and the lows....and all the middling stuff in between. The support from the group is amazing. We've all been rejected, we've all been published. We understand how we feel at any of these times. We can all relate, been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

8. Each month we set S.A.M.S. Goals which are Specific, Achievable and Measurable. I need that extra oomph...knowing which direction I intend to head in for the coming month. Doesn't mean I'll follow it to the letter, in fact there have been times when I haven't achieved any on my list, but have achieved others. But having something to aim for is better than having no idea and hope inspiration strikes.

9. Each of us in the group, even with different lifestyles and home situations, all have at one time or another been hit with a huge blow. Those times when life just slugs us between the eyes, when writing or even thinking about it is the furtherest from our minds. This is when the understanding comes to the fore. There is no pressure to write, simply lots of support while we try and get back on track.

10. They always tell us not to compare yourself to anyone else (almost impossible to achieve, we all do it at some stage or other) but having a group so diverse, where everyone writes something different and where we all work so differently is often a blessing in disguise. It's nice to know that no matter how we work, or we we start from or how long it takes us to produce work, the end result is always achieved. 

11. Rejections. They tell us to grow thick skins, become one with the onion and pile layer upon layer so we don't feel them as harshly. Yes, we do know, in a logical state, that rejection is merely the wrong story at the wrong time...but....this is when a group can offer understanding and hugs. Chocolate and commiserations...we've all had them, we'll all have them again. It's not the end of the world, even if at times it feels that way.

12. Those times when I feel like I should give up, that yes I have a day job, have hobbies and interests...and really do I need the pain and grief that writing can bring? This is when my group pushes me....they tell me that I can go on...and that I will. They believe in me and what I can do....priceless.

13. Inspiration. Love when I come to a meeting and someone says 'saw this and thought of you.'  'Have you thought of entering this competition'. 'What do you think about making that short story into a play / novel / suite of poems/'. Sometimes all you need is fresh eyes to help you move forward.

14. Each of our individual successes have helped to make the group successful. We have all been published, and several have won major awards and accolades....which inspires the group as a whole. When we were first finding our 'writing' legs, the group worked on several anthologies to differing levels of success. But the success was in the entire group working together...something that took finesse and strength, determination and the ability to listen.

15. A group of total strangers, with nothing in common apart from a need and desire to write have now become my friends. 

There you go, fifteen reasons why my writing group rocks! Can't wait to see what we get up to in the future.



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