Should I join a writers group?

In online forums and sites, people often raise the question of joining authors groups. Here are some of my experiences with such groups.

I have belonged to many authors groups over the years, some better than others. The best one I belonged to was the most recent one, a Meetup group. I left it about two years ago, then returned recently to find that the group owner had admitted nearly 200 members since. That might not have been too bad, except that it was an in-person group. There was one person besides the leader whom I had known, and I only attended one meeting.

I was a member of one group that started out with men and women. Everyone got along nicely, and we gave great analyses of each other's work (I try to avoid the word “critique,” which sounds negative to me). Eventually, for whatever reason, the group became all men, which bothered me, though I kept going. Then one guy made a comment that he was “glad” there weren’t any women, because “we guys” could be “real,” and say exactly what we meant without worrying about anyone’s feelings.

But then I read his latest piece (he was trying to emulate the author Donald Barthelme), and I found it unreadable. I told him that, and said that I wouldn’t have read as much as I did, except that I had an obligation to him as a fellow member. As I recall, he didn’t say too much that night, but he stopped coming. After a few weeks, I called him to ask him why, and he proceeded to rip me up, down, and sideways. How dare I say such things, etc. How dare I call myself a writer?

I left that group not long afterward, when we still hadn’t been able to gain any women members.

So that’s some of my experience with groups. My personal opinion is that groups can be useful, but you run into the possibility of getting too much feedback, often conflicting. At least I did.

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