I belong to a writers’ group. We meet once a week for two hours. The first hour we meet as a whole group; the second hour we meet in genre-specific, critique groups. This group has met for over fifteen years and the membership has changed but the group itself has continued with great success.
I joined six years ago and have learned an immensity about writing, and writing well for publication. Of the many, varied writers’ groups I have belonged to (and started) over the last thirty years, this group has taught me more than all of them combined.
The question is why? What makes a successful group?
1. Does the group have meaningful goals? Are they clearly stated to old and new members? Do they draw people to attend meetings and do they return week after week? Does it meet a need or fulfill a purpose for its members?
2. Do they feel accepted and welcomed? Do they feel part of the group? Do their goals mesh with those of the others? Is there trust that their views and opinions will be accepted, and do they feel they can grow into its community and ownership?
3. Is it of mutual benefit? Does it help meet the needs and goals of ALL the members and not just benefit one person or one group? Is attention given to everyone or does one person or one group monopolize the time spent together?
4. Are all members allowed to participate in leadership roles, get involved in the group’s activities, take part in emergent and integral roles within the group? Are all members who wish to volunteer allowed to participate in the work that needs to get done? Do they have a voice in the group’s ownership?
5. Does it meet the goals set by the group? Is there success, even in failure? Some never meet ambitious goals, yet there is satisfaction in the effort and in the potential displayed by all. When one does succeed, does the whole group celebrates along with them?
6. There is a reason why this group has lasted as long as it has – leadership. The tenacity and perseverance of its leaders have kept this group going even through the lean years when the membership has waned to single digits. The two women in charge listen to the membership and its needs. They stay open-minded, flexible, and approachable when it comes to motivating and recruiting members. The goal has stayed the same for the past fifteen years, but the membership has changed, technology has changed, and writing for publication has changed.
When I say I have learned more about writing from this group than any other I have known, it is because the group agenda changes with the times, information is up-to-date, and individual needs are heard and answered.