When I first started writing, I thought there were two kinds of writers in this world: published and not. I was in the "not" category for what seemed like a lifetime, and during that entire period, that binary categorization worked for me.
Then I lucked out and got published and after joining a few organizations and groups, I discovered a new kind of binary category: those who are in writers' groups and those who are not. And I am curious to know, whenever I meet a new writer, which option that writer follows.
I know quite a few authors who swear by their groups, whether the group goes by the name of critique, writers', or support group. They tell me that going to regular meetings keeps them on a schedule, gives them the discipline to write the installments that must be presented to the other group members, and sets up a natural framework for feedback and information sharing. It all sounds ideal. What could be healthier than a bunch of like-minded people helping each other with the lonely and difficult task of writing?
On the other hand, I am not in a writers' group and am not likely to join one in either the near or distant future. While I admit that writing is a solitary, sometimes lonely activity and that feedback is a good thing, I just do not have it in me to meet regularly with other folks to share and discuss my latest project. Call me crazy: I feel that if I tell the story before its time, I will take the wind out of its sails and destroy the magic. I tend to feel that my stories are not ready to stand on their own under scrutiny of any kind until they are at least at the completed first-draft stage. Until then, letting other people poke at them and analyze them makes me feel like I am putting bits and pieces of my children under a microscope.
I am a fan of quite a few best-selling writers who swear by writers' groups and encourage authors at all levels to find a good one. I read Lawrence Block's advice on it back in the 1980's. James Rollins routinely credits his group, and Douglas Preston talks about being an active member in a Santa Fe group for nearly 10 years.
On the other hand, Stephen King says he will not discuss anything he is still working on, even with his wife. Anne Tyler is horrified at the thought of talking any story she is still completing, and equally horrified hearing others talk about their ongoing work in front of her. Maybe it's a form of Emily Dickinson syndrome, I don't know. I just know I don't have the writers' group mentality.
Currently, I am in the yin of yet another double-sided category and trying to cross the barrier into the yang of it. Uh, anyone else out there still on the search for an agent?