In 1990, I overheard a colleague at work refer to himself as a poet. It was one of those earthshaking moments for me. I knew this fellow well and I knew that he wrote poetry-- good poetry-- for fun. When I heard him call himself a poet, I understood that I could call myself a writer. I think at that moment, I birthed not only the writer part of me, but I also established that I need a community to support my writing. I needed to regularly associate with others who were also writing in order to validate my efforts.
From that moment on, I sought a writing group. At first, I went to writing classes. Then I invited friends who were writers to meet regularly to share writing work. Over the years, I've been in many groups, some of which have last only 2 or 3 months and one that lasted almost 6 years. For 3 years, I was a member of a group of 2. At other times, I have been in groups of 4 to 7. While in graduate school, I worked in online groups of as many as 12. I have a new group that is only 2 months old. Some of the members I've worked with before and some are new writing friends.
The thing is this: the 7 women in this group are smart and generous. Time with them infuses me with delight and inspiration. Reading their work is awesome—the tender places they visit with words, the hilarious and poignant voices they record, the colorful scenes they paint. WOW! How lucky I feel to be among the first to read their work. Each of these writers shows me something new and marvelous about craft. Each gives me permission to stretch beyond where I currently sit as a writer.
And when they comment on my work, I am challenged to work harder to make my words say what I mean; I am thankful for their astute observations. I am a writer who needs a community to push and cajole me. I need my writing group's applause, and I need their wise nudges.