By Cheri Lasota

“Men with secrets tend to be drawn to each other, not because they want to share what they know, but because they need the company of the like-minded, the fellow-afflicted.”

—Don DeLillo

All writing groups are unique because their members are unique in what they write, how they communicate, and most of all in how they critique each other’s work. The dynamics in one group may inspire and energize you while another may shatter your writing dreams forever.

Yet writing groups are a must for every writer. They teach us to receive constructive criticism with openness and grace. They help us learn how to critique the work of others. They help us grow as writers in a way we never could working alone.

However, some beginning writers are not yet equipped to handle criticism in any form. Their words are too close to their hearts; for these writers even positive criticism can feel like an attack on their very soul. If you are one of these “newbies,” you may be wondering if there is a way to have all the benefits of a writing group without the terrifying critiques. You can! A write-in, as opposed to a critique group, is simply a meeting of writers who choose to write together. Writing can be a lonely business, but write-ins eliminate that feeling of isolation.

My experience with write-ins began long before my participation in National Novel Writing Month last year, when write-ins were a big part of the month-long celebration, but my absolute certainty in the benefit of write-ins was sealed this past November.

My fellow NaNoWriMo writers pushed me to higher word counts than I ever thought possible (at least for me!). We even played timed “word wars” to raise our word counts even higher.

These like-minded writers inspired me, enlightened me, consoled me—and best of all, they continue to do so! I’ve continued to host write-ins every week (or whenever we can all make time for it) since those glorious NaNoWriMo days. It is a precious two hours we set aside in our relentlessly busy schedules to indulge in whatever individual projects we are working on that particular week.

Sometimes I work on editing or even this newsletter, but always I feel that my time was well-spent even if we are just talking shop or laughing—dare I say crying?—at the state of the publishing industry today.

Join a write-in. If you can’t find one, start one yourself or ask your current writing group if they want to give it a try. You may find the inspiration and unconditional support that’s been missing in your writing life.