Are you a writer thinking about setting up a creative writing group but not feeling brave enough to take that first step? Or perhaps you already run writing workshops but have questions about whether you are on the right track?
Whether it is poetry or fiction, for beginners or the more experienced, workshops for fun and personal development or with a focus on craft and technique, a growing number of people are running groups for writers.
There is little guidance available, however, for those starting out or for those who want to develop their skills.
In researching our new course Running Writing Groups, I’ve put together this list of tips garnered from writing group facilitators with years of combined experience on how to build your confidence and skills, and keep your participants happy.
Ten tips for running writing groups
Plan and prepare
Know your audience and prepare content accordingly. Keep the goal of your session, or series of sessions, in your mind at all times.
Know something about group dynamics
It’s important to understand how people tend to behave in groups, so that you can appreciate what is normal and not take things too personally if a challenging issue does arise.
Learn how to run a group by watching how others do it.
– Anne Taylor
Create a safe space
Participants need to feel valued and respected, so clear ground-rules on confidentiality, sharing, listening and feedback are crucial.
Attend as many writing workshops as you can
Learn how to run a group by watching how others do it – think about what you like about how other people facilitate their groups, and what you don’t.
Trust the group
Be flexible – don’t feel you have to cover everything you have prepared, and let the group members go deeper with material if they want to.
It’s OK to cry
Make people aware of how writing is an emotional pursuit. Whether you are running a writing group focusing on craft or for wellbeing, writing can prompt some strong emotions.
A smooth-running workshop will build confidence and respect.
– Anne Taylor
It’s not about you
Remember that you are there for the group. A good facilitator will make sure attention is shared and help participants to find their own way forward, rather than showing them the way.
Name what’s in the room
If someone is talking too much, for example, you might invite people to be a little more brief, so that everyone gets a chance to contribute.
Make sure to book a quiet, private room. Check that you know things like how to get in and lock up, and where the tea and coffee facilities are. Smooth running will build confidence and respect.
Writing is an enjoyable activity, so there is no need to make things too seriously. Playful and expressive writing will often take people by surprise.