About a million years ago, when I first decided I wanted to write a book, I knew no one else who had done so. Not even in a cousin’s-friend’s-neighbour’s-dog’s-aunt kind of way. Of course, this was back in the days pre-internet when if you wanted to meet people with similar interests, you had to actually physically go out and find them.
Later I got to know of a few people who had written books (in the cousin’s-friend’s-dog kind of way), but it wasn’t until the last few years when I got seriously stuck in on ‘The Secret Dead’ that I actually got to know other writers and got involved in the writing community.
One of the best decisions I ever made was joining Meetup and going along to a Write Together group. Write Together is the brainchild of a guy named Joao who managed to find a fix for a very writer-y problem: procrastination. We all know we intend to write at home, but there’s always a distraction. Always a reason to put it off for another five minutes. And writing groups? Well, most of them either focus on critiquing (so you’ll have to have actually written the work), or on ‘Prompts’ or ‘Themes’. Again, not a bad thing if you’re looking for inspiration, but not all that handy on finishing the novel that’s been sitting at the back of your drawer for five years.
The idea behind Write Together is a group of writers getting together and…writing. That’s it. It’s a very simple concept and one that has become increasingly popular. We all work quietly on our own projects and at the end of the session (2/3/4 hours or longer) usually have a chat about writing. There’s no pressure to share (something that fills me with terror), or write anything off-topic. Something about being in the same place at the same time every week with people in the same boat turns on the switch in my brain marked ‘Writing Mode’, and from the conversations I’ve had with fellow writers, I’m not the only one.
A good portion of ‘The Secret Dead’ and most of ‘A Murder of Crones’ were written at the Pret near Monument Station in London on a Sunday where I hosted one of the meetups as a ‘write in’. 10am-5pm every Sunday for two years. You can imagine it’s kind of hard not to get work done with those sort of hours on a regular basis. Especially if you’ve got other writers there who can look over at your laptop any moment and go ‘hey, what are you doing on twitter?’
It was one of the first things I missed when I moved out of London. However, (yay) it turns out that Bristol is churning with creative people. Someone I met described it as ‘all you can eat art’ which is a fabulously accurate description. I’ve met more writers in the last two months than in ten years in London. The place is lousy with writers’ groups. None was quite the ‘Write Together’ concept so I tagged along to one of the ones already there and tacked my own meetups to it. And again, it’s helped me meet some lovely people. I’d love to be able to fast-forward a few years and see what they’ll all have accomplished/published then.
When you have a passion for something, there’s nothing quite like getting to meet another person with the same passion, and getting to have the kind of really intense conversation that involves a lot of head-nodding and excitement. If you’re an introverty type like me, it’s even better, because you don’t have to make small talk. There’s an automatic wonderful subject to talk about. Perfect.
I’ve also met some wonderful writers online (and will write a separate post about that), but my recommendation to new writers is that despite the incredible and wonderful world of social media, it’s still hugely beneficial to go out and actually meet people on the outernet too. (I don’t like calling non-internet space ‘the real world’ because online is real. It’s just different.)
So, if you’re a Bristolian look us up on Meetup (Writing!), and if you’re a Londoner, there are Write Together meetups almost every day to pop along to. And if you’re neither here nor there, then find out what is out there in your area. Or start a group if there isn’t one. You won’t be sorry.