What Willesden Green writers group means to me

A friend asked me what the writing group is like this week, because he's joining a group himself. It got me thinking about what our writing group IS like. And I realised I'm really proud of it. God knows, I tried moving to a different county to get away and I still came crawling back.
Anyway. I first started coming to WGWG around 2002 when I'd just left university and was looking to 'keep my hand in' with writing. It was a funny little place then, run by the author of Henry's Cat, who was an absolute nutjob (can I say that?). He was always trying to make us do exercises and going on about the characters in James Bond. It was fucked up and uncomfortable. Yet still I kept going.
We went through a couple of facilitators after that, and it's mad to think they actually used to get paid, when we do it on a rota basis now (having said that, I haven't had a turn for a bit). But the library took away our funding, but let us keep the room. We're lucky to have that room, and who knows what will become of it once they knock the place down? Well, it will be rubble. And I bet won't get a new room. It's more a goodwill gesture than anything. We'll be resigned to the pub or someone's house. And that doesn't seem right.
The format of the writing group is simple. You simply bring along what you're working on (and ideally, copies) and read it out, for about five minutes (don't take the piss reading out half a novel, especially if it's set in Victorian times).
Then we give feedback. And you know what? The feedback we give is good. We don't soft-soap, we don't pussyfoot around, we are honest (too honest? no, honest) and we help each other become better writers. I've walked out of there in a strop more times than I can count. But they were right. I was being lazy that week. I hadn't thought that bit through very well. And I have had praise, massive praise, when I've deserved it.
The group is full of totally different people from all walks of life, all ages, all interests and writing styles. Some people drive you mad, some people you end up genuinely caring for. We have a laugh. I have good friends there, and there are some bloody good writers there. I'm one of them.
There have been dramas- I won't deny that. There was much negotiation of how to run the group between the former chair (me), secretary and treasurer. We had to bring in rules to get rid of various psychos, people who were just plain drunk, or people trying to push religious or political agendas. Or people who just came to show off and didn't want to listen or learn or help anyone else. There have been wrangles over the anthologies we've produced, but hours and hours of hard work have gone into them, and with great results (we won 5 grand!). There have been arguments, broken hearts, hurt feelings, abject boredom, drunken nights, several crushes and loads of laughs. And that's just me.
Oh, and lots and lots of crisps at the pub. LOTS.
I have conquered my fears and stood in front of a crowd and read from my poetry or novel at various events we've done. I have signed autographs, for fuck's sake! The writing group gave me a platform. A very small platform with virtually no one there, but was still good for me.
There can be no better incentive to write than a deadline, and that's what Thursday gives you, and writers need a deadline. And I'm a lazy bastard, I only go once every couple of months (because I live reasonably far away now, in part, but I'm also just slack).
If you're thinking of joining the writers group, do, come along and don't be scared. If I'd given up the first time (or the first 20) I'd never have seen my name printed at the top of a book, like a real writer. Lots of people seem to come once and disappear, and I don't blame them. It is hard to write, and to force yourself to write, and to go somewhere and read out your writing, and potentially be told what's wrong with it- that's hardcore. But it's worth it.

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2 Responses to What Willesden Green writers group means to me

alteredhands said...

I was going to say something sarcastic, about how I do not ever remember you being showered with praise - but in the end, your piece moved me. So I'll say nothing. Except to the 'nutjob' - please sue the author, not the group.

lightupvirginmary said...

Dont worry, he's so doddery, I doubt if he's online. I was probably showered with praise when you weren't there. :)


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