One would think, that if one were a writer, and if one were really interested in learning and growing, that finding ones self surrounded by other writers would be a great way to achieve those goals. One would think.
It only makes sense right? That people in the same field with the same experiences would be a gold mine of knowledge and experience. it’s not an untrue assumption, as a matter of fact it’s really close to the mark, and social media makes it so easy to connect, what could be better? But there is something that this assumption does not take into account. Competition.
You would think that where there are…say…30000 people vying for the same brass ring that it would be an easy thing to see folks helping and advising and pulling each other up. But you would be wrong. Not that there aren’t those folks who do that. They are and where they are, they give helpful tips about editing, and cover images, and beta reading and on and on. You can really learn a lot just sitting at your laptop scrolling thought group feeds observing. You may even be inspired to jump in and join in the conversation.
Those people are there, and when you find them make a note to keep them close, but then there are the other kinds. The trolls who live to criticize. The ones who troll so hard they leave the realm of constructiveness and go all down into nasty and personal, and just plain crass. I guess that’s the devil of social media groups, you can’t avoid those types, and when you encounter then they leave such a bad taste in your mouth that the sweetness of the real treasure you may have come across is soured or bittered.
Then there is the torrent of extra topics of conversation. Ideas floating around, research questions, jokes, horror stories and success stories. A smorgasbord of stimulation that soon lets you find yourself far adrift from your own ideas and even your own will to write. While these places can be a great place to cruise for inspiration and they might yield some worthwhile advice, they can also be a pitfall that halts your progress in it’s tracks.
Then there are those where everyone is on display. People post their work and everyone gushes, or one or two gush, or no body gushes. For fear of being offensive to your fragile ego or theirs, and you find yourself navigating more group politics than words and in the end you’re turned off just as surely as if you were in one of the chatty troll nests.
Am I saying that all writing groups are like this? Am I advising you to stare clear? Absolutely not. Like I said there some great stuff in those places, some great friendships to be made and some great advice to be had. What I’m saying is such places cannot be your end all and be all. Yes, I know the internet is throwing gig after gig of ‘how to’ and ‘what to’ and ‘where to’ in order to ‘make it’, and it’s confusing as hell to go it alone, but that is not what I’m suggesting either.
I suggest you read all the how to’s you can stomach, develop your own feel for the thing. Join the group but remember that 30000 cooks will definitely ruin your soup. I also suggest that you find a physical group. It doesn’t have to be big or formal or “professional” but it does have to comprise people of like mind. Who like to write and share and bounce ideas. Find a space where you can function alone, be with your thoughts and process them in your imagination.
Then take the hodge podge and turn it into greatness. Don’t hang all your hopes on writers groups, hang them on your opinion and work ethic.