Why join one of the Hamilton Mountain Writers’ Guild Groups

Writing is often seen as a solitary pursuit, but a growing number of people are exploring and experiencing with the benefits of writing together.

Groups will provide a challenge:
‘The energy is there, and there’s also the sense of being led, having the prompts given to you and not knowing what they are. There’s that feeling of challenge, really, and suddenly something will appear and you’ll have no idea what will happen. Sometimes in a group, groups will do character development, and after about half an hour they will all take a break to look at these amazing characters that have walked into the room with us. That’s part of the energy that writing in a group gives you.

Exploring together prompts fresh ideas:
‘I think there’s a huge privilege in sharing in a group, and when people are listening to each other you really enable that first piece of writing to grow, and you explore together. You can explore quite difficult and even disturbing ideas together, and there’s a safety in that as well. I love the differences in people and their work as well as the similarities, and I always find it quite exciting when you put one writing prompt down, and you get so many different and brilliantly exciting ideas. It keeps you refreshed, hearing other people’s ideas.’

Working with others provides new perspectives:
The first thing that comes to mind is just hearing other voices. Our own perspective is always limited, even though we count on it to guide us. It’s way too limited, so it can tend to get us stuck as well. When there are other voices in the room, and you hear someone say ‘I was thinking of doing this’, or ‘I discovered this’, it can really resonate with something inside you. It’s beautiful that it deepens and broadens what we know to be possible. That’s the one thing. The other most important thing is the sense of community. Not only in the sense that you’re not alone, but working, creating and learning together.’  People could come to a group if they’ve lost energy in their writing, haven’t written in years and are beginning again, or even they’ve never written at all.

Writing in a group builds confidence:
‘I think it comes down to two things. One is that it helps to build participants’ confidence. When they come out of that individual writing place they might have at home, or somewhere else, they discover that there are other people like them who share their enthusiasm. No matter what kind of writing they do, or what level they’re at with it, they seem to get huge enjoyment and motivation from being amongst the community of other people.’

Working with others can change the way we read:
‘I think people could come to a group if they’ve lost energy in their writing, haven’t written in years and are beginning again, or even they’ve never written at all. All those things are of value, and people can also discover different poets and writers.’

It helps to unblock and gives permission to be playful:
‘I often ask people at the start ‘why have you come to our guild of writers,’ and they say their reasoning is to unblock their imagination and creatively. They frequently come feeling blocked, and they want fun, and it’s certainly very joyful the way we work in the group. We take it seriously, but playfully. It also gives people permission. Often, in childhood, there are all sorts of things you’re forbidden to do with language. You’re told not to be silly, not to tell lies, not to tell stories, so that permission of creativity is of great value. Once people feel they’ve met that, they can take courage in their own writing.’

Being in a group helps to motivate us and hear our own voice:
‘Writing’s a solitary occupation, and sometimes it’s difficult to motivate yourself to get started, or keep going with a project. People often come with something that’s ground to a halt. With a group, it’s easier to kick-start things and get in the zone with it. But also, with a writing group, something you don’t get anywhere else, is that you hear your own voice. When you listen to other people’s writing, you hear what you don’t do. You think ‘I don’t do that’, or ‘I could do that’, and also when you read to the group, they reflect back to your strengths that you might not realize you have.’

At each group meeting, handout printed 3-5 pages of your short story it doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction. Please refrain from bringing anything longer than 5 pages at a time. These papers will be taken home and read and critiqued. Please either write comments on the paper handed out or on a separate sheet of paper. Please email the same material one week in advance to everyone in your group.

The group will come back together to share what they critiqued at the next meeting. If you missed a meeting or will miss a meeting and would like to offer your critique, you can send a short email to the writer or, as preferred, save the papers until the next meeting. Please do not email someone critiquing a current paper. Please save those comments for the next group meeting.

Participants in this writer’s group are asked to make only supportive, positive, and encouraging statements. Negative feedback is discouraged. Each person in the group can mention something he or she liked or did not like about the writing. Specific statements and comments are the most helpful. Style is unique and comments on how the style is written will not be considered unless the writer chooses to open a discussion about it. What will be considered is clarity, tenses, word usage such as missing words.

The purpose of the Hamilton Mountain Writers’ Guild is to support writers in their creative process. We are here to learn, to share and to support. We meet twice a month at Terryberry Library, a safe and neutral setting to encompass the safety and anonymity of our personal lives. Any contact outside of the group must be a mutual understanding. If you have something to share with the group as a whole, please email to the Group Coordinator who will distribute it to the group you are in.

In our Writer’s Guild we have simple rules to follow:

  1. We respect each other and the type of writing we do.
  2. We don’t criticize each other destructively.
  3. We try not to interrupt each other when speaking in a group setting.
  4. We try to be positive and encouraging at all times.
  5. Do your best to make the group a safe environment to learn the craft of writing.

When looking at someone’s writing, please take into consideration the following points: Focus on three things

  1. Start with the positives – what works.
  2. Point out what isn’t clear, what doesn’t work, and what could be better.
  3. Offer suggestions for consideration.
    Grammar issues
    Punctuation Tenses
    Vocabulary Clarity
    Potential legal issues
    Use of language (Cdn or American

You should write every day. Depending on your schedule you may not have a scene ready to read each week, but you should be working on at least one project that you’re comfortable sharing. Reading your work to a group can be a humbling and often humiliating experience. Members without work to share keep their hearts and souls safely hidden. They don’t risk humiliation or rejection.

I’ve seen non-sharing members become arrogant and even contemptuous toward the working writer. They’re more apt to criticize than critique. But when each group member puts his or her heart and soul on the table each week for scrutiny, the circle of bonding is complete. Remember that the purpose of the group is to give and receive feedback about your work in progress. So, if you attend bi-weekly writing groups only as an observer, perhaps you should stay at home and write.

Every member should agree to read each other’s work. Not parts of it. Not whatever is convenient. ALL OF IT! If you want to send your story by email as probably some people in your group who can edit, format, proofread, and give you some ideas that you might not have thought of? It’s hard enough to follow a short story one scene at a time, bi-week after bi-week, over the course of a few months or more. A member who misses some of those readings becomes hopelessly lost. And asking too many questions trying to catch up becomes disruptive, counterproductive and deprives members of good feedback. If you miss a bi-week, agree to read and critique what you missed before you attend the next meeting or get a person to email his/her writing to you. And expect others to do the same for you.

One final thought: If your only option is to join an online discussion group, then go for it.

Getting feedback electronically from people you may never meet in person is better than getting no feedback at all. However, the benefits of regular face-to-face meetings with serious writers you respect and trust can yield golden opportunities that just aren’t possible with an online community.

Who knows what network connections and long-term friendships may develop over time from people you’re in the same room with meeting after meeting whether it be your group meeting or general meeting. It’s really up to you if you want to progress in your writing ability!

Below you can see the membership form, when you come to a meeting you can request one which you will be able to complete.


Click here for Group meeting information