Speaking to Writing Groups – Expectations

Speaking to Writing Groups - Expectations

In the early years as a writing group leader, I can remember spending several hours reviewing materials, and researching online resources to build my training tool kit in preparation for bi-monthly group meetings. After a while, instead of maintaining focus on preparing subject matter, I got lost in the minutia of wondering how many would attend, will they arrive on time, wondering why Anne or Jake had stopped coming, and what, if anything, I could do about it.

It didn’t take long for me to realize I had become frustrated with “small details” and outcomes over which I had no control. I realized I needed to stop, take an assessment, and process the situation before moving forward. When I did, a new strategy opened for me. I became aware of my responsibility, as a leader, to manage group expectations of what I presented in such a way they realized they owned the outcome.

If you’re like me, your group is spoiled. Initially, my members arrived to every meeting expecting handouts and lecture. I “poured” and they filled their mental and physical baskets full of “how to” and “where to go” for whatever they needed. Each meeting, they would return ready for the next refill–many without having used any of the material and resources from the last session. I would pour and fill and send them forth again, and they would leave and return the same as they were before–very little change. When I grasped this new strategy, I saw a change. It was subtle at first. In fact one or two members dropped out all together, but those that stayed got it. Here’s what I did:

Eliminated preconceived notions.

I removed assumptions that my writing group members didn’t know what they needed in order to launch their writing, but I did. It was a challenge, but I learned to provide exercises that would help them “self identify” what challenges they faced, how well they’ve grown, or whether writing was a call in their lives. For example, at one session I used a gallery moment in which participants could select any picture they’d like to write a 200 word short story. Once the picture was chosen, the rest of the meeting was spent writing–not lecturing. This resulted in several members developed the beginnings of their story lines for or books. It happened because they were released to produce on their own.

Accepted the things I could not change

As writing group leaders, we have a heart for our members. We want them to grow and succeed beyond what they could individually imagine. It is important, however, to release and let go. We are not responsible for their failure to move to the next level. Don’t take it personally.

Our role, as writing group leaders, is to offer information and resources that will provide optimal opportunities for the growth and development of our members. Our members will either accept or reject the ideas we present in the same way the elect to write or not to write their, poetry, plays, or novels. As leaders, we need to be cautious not to create unreasonable assumptions that only we provide the spark our members need in order to be motivated to succeed as authors. We must learn to enjoy the experience.

Leadership is not easy. In addition to seeking to stay on track with our personal writing goals, we have accepted the task of helping others achieve a level of mastery in their goal to be accomplished writers. Once it becomes a burden, it is time to move on. Remember, we are always at choice.