I know what you’re thinking: “But writing’s essentially a lonely business, isn’t it?” Well, what if I told you it doesn’t have to be? Better yet, what if I told you it shouldn’t be?
I used to believe writers were inherently lonely creatures, and to be honest, I liked that idea. I felt comfortable as a non-native English speaker writing from a cobwebbed corner of the world, speaking my mind and never worrying about anyone else’s opinion on my words.
The problem was, I wasn’t very pleased with my work, nor did I enjoy the writing process as much as I thought I should. For me, it was reduced to writing, editing, submitting, crossing my fingers, and getting subpar results at best. I did experience my share of moderate initial success, but more often than not, my pieces were duly ignored, quickly forgotten, or downright rejected.
That’s until I got the following email from the editor of a publication I had just submitted a draft to:
I’ll add you as a writer. Great to have you onboard!
By the way, do you have a writers’ group that you’re part of? We are a small group of writers who give each other feedback and support. I think you’d be a good fit. Let me know if you are keen.
If there’s a first time for everything, that was it for me. I’d never been invited into a group, let alone a writers’ one. Feeling perplexed, hesitant, and a bit nervous, I considered declining the offer, but following my wife’s advice, I accepted the invitation.
A few minutes later, I had become the eighth member of a surprisingly lively fellowship of authors who, as I was promised, were more than happy to provide feedback and support to one another. There were people from the U.S., Canada, England, New Zealand, Australia, and India, all interacting like the most dynamic of organizations, despite living thousands of miles apart.
Joining that group was a real game-changer for me, and one of the best decisions I’ve made since I started writing. It made me realize I’d been wrong in approaching in solitary a process that is essentially a collaborative effort. And today, my dear friend, I’ve decided to write a list of reasons why you too should be part of a writers’ team.
1. Peer revision is priceless
Whenever I have a draft reviewed by one or two of my fellow group members, their feedback invariably includes at least one of the following suggestions: Paragraphs to be moved, sentences to be edited into smaller ones, spelling mistakes, and rephrasing recommendations.
How on Earth did I miss all that? I wonder, sometimes feeling sheepish. Is my writing really that bad?
The tables are turned when I read their drafts and end up finding several errors in their pieces as well. That’s when I realize that while my writing style and my peers’ may differ, in the end, we’re all imperfect human beings; and as such, we all struggle to find the most effective way to deliver our message to the public.
The thing is, it’s easy to point out the flaws in other people’s writing, but difficult to see the same imperfections in ours. This is why having another set of eyes on your drafts before you hit the publish button can be greatly beneficial to you and your posts.
Of course, opening up for criticism by allowing your work to be examined is daunting. However, to learn and grow, you have to embrace your vulnerability as a writer. And while you may not fully agree with all of your peers’ suggestions, I can guarantee you will always find plenty of truth in their insight.
2. Your submission acceptance rate increases tenfold
As stated in the previous point, the importance of peer revision lies in their shrewd observations. This feedback, in turn, adds to the solidity of your writing, gradually making it better, sharper, and smarter.
As a byproduct, the acceptance rate of your articles skyrockets as you take your peers’ suggestions into account and implement them into your writing. Rejection messages become less frequent, fewer edits are requested, and editors start noticing you.
Ever since I joined my writers’ group, I’ve experienced submission acceptance rates far greater than ever before, and I know I owe that to my team. Their feedback has taken my writing to a higher level, and even though I know I still have much to learn, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made so far.
3. It helps you get a better understanding of the writing business
Out in cyberspace, there are thousands of articles on how to make it as a writer. And while you may go through them all and become fairly knowledgeable on what you should or shouldn’t do to be successful, there’s a gray area in between that can only be filled with firsthand experience from your peers.
Think of it as a new job. You may have read all the rules and regulations, but you will always need a bunch of honest co-workers to tell you what the job is really like, what you should watch out for, and what has worked for them so far.
It’s the inside information combined with the experiential wisdom from your peers that gives a solid understanding of what a writer’s job is all about. I have learned enormously from every member of my writers’ group, and I have given some of them a few pieces of advice I wish I had been told long ago.
4. It motivates you to write more
I admire my fellow group members’ drive and determination to always be writers despite their obligations. Not that it’s a competition of course, but watching your peers publish their articles one after another naturally incentivizes you to do the same.
For instance, there’s a guy in my group who is quite prolific. He can have not one, not two, but up to three high-quality pieces published on a single day. I, on the other hand, consider myself productive if I manage to post an article once a week, given my daytime job responsibilities as an educator.
Deep inside, of course, I want to find more time to produce my content and speed up my writing. Amazingly, this burning desire doesn’t stem from a competitive urge to “catch up” with my peers, but to follow in their footsteps. So if you’re looking for motivation to double your publishing rate, a writers’ group might be just what you need.
5. It inspires you to diversify on your topics
According to Michelle Weber from The Daily Post, it isn’t just a niche topic that attracts readers. They’re also drawn to writers’ voices and perspectives, and that’s what allows multi-topic writers to be successful.
There’s an author in my group who’s great at giving writing advice. There’s another one who focuses on How-To pieces. There’s one who writes primarily about leadership and startups. There’s a writer who’s great at penning psychology articles. And there’s someone who specializes in both marketing and comedy.
All of my peers have chosen a niche, but none is afraid to step out of it every now and then. I’ve seen them powerfully approach alternative topics, such as parenthood, relationships, ancestry, personal growth, and even loss. And the more they do so, the more they inspire me to find my own voice and make my readers fall in love with it, no matter what the topic I’m writing about is.
Here’s the deal: it’s okay to have a chosen niche, but in order to develop your style as an author, you may have to allow yourself to be sidetracked to different topics once in a while. And a writers’ group is just the right place to get the necessary motivation to do so.
A few weeks ago I wrote a historical article, prompting some of my fellow group members to do the same. There was even an inside joke in the group that I’d started a “history craze” and that everyone suddenly wanted to jump on the bandwagon. Interestingly, even though my peers had little to no experience writing about that topic, that didn’t stop them from trying and having a good time in the process.
6. It creates a sense of belonging
It’s hard to explain, especially for someone who’s always struggled to be accepted into groups, but upon becoming a member, I felt right at home.
I’ll never forget being greeted with “Hello, Joe! Welcome to the League Of Extraordinary Writers!” — a reference to Alan Moore’s famous graphic novel. I liked that exchange so much, that I made a habit of welcoming new group members with the same line. I want them to feel just as important as I did when I joined the crew.
In terms of human interaction, I couldn’t ask for more. There are no conflicts, no jealousy, no aggressive competition, and no back-stabbing. Just pure, honest, constructive, and appreciative respect for one another and what we do. If someone experiences success, we celebrate. When bad news breaks, we show support. And whenever there’s a need for assistance, we show up to do what we can. If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what is.
Now, I know this is next to impossible, but I keep longing for a day when we all have the chance to physically sit down at the same table, share lunch, and talk about life. See each other face to face. Share handshakes. Get to know one another a bit better. Again, I can’t imagine the logistic nightmare to make something like that happen, but it’d be worth it, I’m sure.
7. It’s fun
Last but not least, beyond the professional, human, and technical aspects of writing, there’s a particularly enjoyable element to belonging to a group: The fun.
I’ve laughed out loud more times than I can count. I’ve read in amazement some of my favorite pieces from my fellow writers. I’ve had the chance to practice my English with all of them. I’ve learned about their culture. And I’ve had the opportunity to talk with one of my peers in my mother tongue.
Admittedly, I interact with some members more than others. After all, I’ve always been a bit shy, and I’m not very good at breaking the ice. However, I care about all of them and I get excited as the group keeps growing and the newcomers enrich everyone else’s experience. So much fun!
Individually penning down your thoughts is just the first step in the proverbial assembly line to getting your work published. The rest of the operation, however, is best executed as a team effort. As Stefanie Flaxman from Copyblogger states, “Writing is solitary work, but professional writers know publishing is a collaborative process.”
In the end, you may not consider yourself a team player, and that’s okay. As I’ve mentioned before, neither did I. But if there’s one thing I can assure you, is that you can step up your writing in both technical and professional levels by joining a group of writers.
And if you can’t find a team to join, well, nothing’s stopping you from getting in contact with a few scattered authors out there and start a league of your own. As a writer, it’s one of the biggest favors you can do to yourself.
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