Finding your people may be the most important part of writing.
That’s right. More important than a good word processor. More important than world building. More important than character development. Because finding your writing people can help you develop all of these things.
You need to find people you can trust. People who are dedicated to helping you become a better writer.
You may think, “But I have my creative writing classes! Those count, right?” A workshop group within the context of a creative writing class is good, but not sufficient, to achieve these aims. This is because you may trust your new classmates less than a close friend, and because you’re not going to give the whole class the novel you’ve written, or every poem you want to publish. Class workshops also have people with different skill levels, opinions, and ideas about what good writing looks like. Some people are going to “get” your work more than others, and those are the people you need to find and stick with. While you shouldn’t discredit the critiques you receive in class workshops, you’re more likely to take criticism from people you trust. This is why you need a writing group.
You need a group comprised of writers who will be honest with you about your writing’s faults, while also being supportive and encouraging of you and your work. You need a balance of both.
My writing didn’t get serious until I found my writing group. I’m a slow writer. I don’t produce a lot without a deadline. The pressure of meeting each week made me write, even when I didn’t feel particularly inspired. It also helped me get over the fear of sharing my work with people. The people in my writing group are friends as well as critique partners, so I trust them to give me good feedback as well as hype me up when that’s what I need. All of them are also like a personal cheer-leading squad—no one is more excited about what I write than they are.
Being in a writing group has made me a better writer. Each person has a unique perspective on each piece and they’re all going to catch things the others won’t. One catches all of my little comma mistakes. Another brings up questions about big picture issues. The other spots everything in between. They’ve helped me recognize my own strengths and weaknesses, and I know I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without them.
Not only will you receive feedback on your writing, but you will be able to have the opportunity to give feedback. In doing this, you’ll be able to self-edit better, learn about how different people see your work, and learn what to look for in a piece to make it better. I’m a much better workshop participant now that I’ve had two years of continuous practice. Editing is (almost) as fun as writing, especially when it’s a friend’s project that I love. I cannot recommend a writing group enough.
Look around your classes, find some people on twitter, sign up for workshops or seminars and whatever you need to find the people that understand your writing almost as well as you do. Then write. And let them read. And write some more.