Over my decades of writing I’ve been to many writing groups and have watched what works for writers and what stops many of us in our tracks. Perfectionism can be the biggest obstacle – the writer’s own or high standards set in the group itself. I work on the basis of a paradox: the lower our expectations, the freer our best work is to come to us. Throw perfectionism out of the window and allow yourself to enjoy your page and screen. The more you write, the better you’ll get. If you’re paralysed by worry, you’ll have nothing to work on. As long as you’re writing something, you’re making progress and you can revise to a higher standard later.
My paradoxical approach works. Since our Churchill College writing group began, Michael’s biography of Canon Duckworth has been published and he is working on a new biography of Sir John Cockcroft, Pete is working with an agent on revision of his Young Adult vampire novel, Liz has been a publisher’s featured poet, Gervase has self-published his memoir of his heroic grandmother and Helen has finished a screenplay of it, Terry is writing a series of political novels, Lauren is deep into writing her first novel and Mary is working on her family memoir.
The quality of the talent in the group is exhilarating and everyone is developing a happy, confident writing process.
From July 2015 these writing groups in Waterstone’s Greenwich are closed to allow Rosie to recover from illness and concentrate on her own writing.
Waterstones’ kindness in hosting the groups is much appreciated and Rosie wishes everyone luck and success with their writing. And remember that if you’re a writer, a day with writing in it is always happier than a day when you don’t write.
CHURCHILL COLLEGE WRITING GROUPS
Who: anyone who has any connection with Churchill College, including family members. The range of writing experience (and everything else) is wide, from beginners to published writers.
Where: Churchill College, Cambridge
When: 3.30 – 5.30pm, usually on the four middle Saturday afternoons of each term. Churchill Writers are welcome to gather from 3pm to catch up over coffee, tea and biscuits.
This coming term we’ll be meeting on 13th, 20th, 27th May and 3rd June 2017.
If you would like to join us for the first time, please drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org with a few lines about yourself so that I can welcome and introduce you.
What we do: a mix of writing exercises, discussion around a writing theme and supportive, constructive feedback on your pages if you have them. No problem if you haven’t; there is no obligation to read any of your work to others if you do not feel like it. Your privacy is sacrosanct.
Contact Rosie for more info on email@example.com
What do we do? Well, mostly we talk, write and laugh.
We usually start with a bit of free-flow writing to get us limbered up. This can be tremendously liberating as the stakes are low – no preparation, no redrafting, who cares if it’s a bit rough. Like all creativity, writing combines planning with adventure. We can start out knowing exactly what we’re going to write and then, if we’re lucky, the magic happens and what’s on the page or screen begins to thrill and surprise us. Come and try with us and you’ll soon know what I mean.
I do all the exercises alongside you by the way and sometimes we read aloud what we’ve written, sometimes we don’t. You never have to read aloud if you don’t want to. Sometimes, even if you have all the confidence and experience in the world, an exercise can bring up something that should stay private. My advice is to write it as honestly and deeply as you can – you’ll find it doing you good – and then keep it to yourself if you want to. Your privacy is sacrosanct.
Each session has a theme designed to help you avoid pitfalls that I’ve learned the hard way. Where to start, how to develop your characters, how to find your theme and throughline, whether to self-publish or find an agent – that sort of thing. As we explore together, we do more writing exercises, if there’s time, and examine how the great writers have tackled things too.
Finally you are invited to bring about three pages (max, 1500 words please) of your writing to read to the group if you’d like to. It doesn’t have to be the best piece you’ve ever produced – maybe you want to bring it because you’re after advice on where you feel it might be going wrong – and I make sure that feedback is positive, constructive and relevant. We writers are usually our own most severe critics and what we don’t always know is what we are doing well. Encouragement is the best way to build good writing practice in my view. There are no feeding frenzies of criticism in my groups.
Good writing comes from writing a lot. Many people get disheartened because their first writing isn’t as polished and perfect as they want it to be. I bet Tolstoy’s first efforts weren’t perfect either. Writing and imagination are like muscles and we work on both. If they are flexed and enjoyed often, they both get stronger and stronger, and will reward you in more ways than you ever dreamt possible.
You’ll see from my Books pages that my experience is wide and I can help and encourage you with most aspects of writing. Exceptions where I have little or no experience and must ask you to look elsewhere are screen-writing, self-publishing and erotica.
Please do NOT send me your unsolicited work. I do not have time to take on script assessments but recommend the script critique service of The Complete Creative Writing Service run by publisher Maggie Hamand.