50 ways to leave your writers’ group

Are there 50 ways to leave? Apparently the song says there are when it comes to lovers, but groups aren’t so … straightforward. For a start, there are more of them. Instead of fronting up to one person, you might have to face four, or six, or sixteen. But if you are certain that the time has come to leave, then you have to do it, mainly to save your writing.

You might be leaving because the group has failed to deal with a bad egg (and in that case it might be a sinking ship already – excuse the cliché), or you might have simply decided that the group is detrimental in some way. It’s undermining your confidence or trying to tell you how to write, it’s taking up way too much of your valuable writing time, or it’s just changed (or you’ve changed and they no longer suit what you need).

Option 1: Disappear. Just stop attending and don’t answer your phone for … six months or so. Yes, it’s the chicken’s way out. Don’t they deserve more?

Option 2: Lie. Say you are starting a new 3000 page novel and you need more time for writing, or your great-aunt from Tibet has taken over your life. But that’s not really fair, is it?

Option 3: Text them to say goodbye. Hmmm, just like in a romance, this is also pretty tacky and unprofessional.

Option 4: Write them a letter. Better than the text, for sure, as long as you don’t lie.

Option 5: Go along to the next meeting and then, at an opportune moment, or at the end of the session, tell them you need to leave. Treat this like you would a pitch session with an agent. Be professional, totally polite, don’t get personal and practice what you’re going to say beforehand. If you feel you have to say why, you can simply say, “I need to spend more time on my writing – it’s really important to me.” It won’t be a lie if you commit to actually using your writers’ group time and writing!

Agreed, this is a hard thing to do and could cause animosity. Remember – be professional, totally polite, and don’t get personal. And then go home and write.

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  1. Years ago, I fled my writing group. One long time member went on a working vacation and attended a Big Name Writing Workshop. Pretty cool, but she came back with a binder of notes like the proverbial tablets handed brought down by a prophet. She became the worst kind of Expert. She went from a pleasant person to an editing evangelist who was preaching the Word.

    The founder of the group, long before I joined, was the unofficial boss. When the other founder left, it became less “unofficial”. She would recruit new member without seeking any of our opinions at all. Two of three newbies worked all right, but the third. Lordie, was he a colossal ego of an arse. Worse than his preening and condescending attitude was when everyone nodded and admired his pathetic writing and nasty words. Only until much later did I learn he was something of a rich VIP in the city and thus the sad brown nosing.

    Luckily, the chap who sponsored me into the group decided to part ways, citing the group functioned well for critiquing short stories, but he was off to do novels. He had never experienced a satisfying methodology for group critique of novels, so…aloha. I jumped on his coat tails, stole his reason and sailed on the same boat.

    A happy ending! At a writing retreat years later, I bumped into a couple of familiar faces. Long story short, they were all the “new kids” to my old writing group. All joined since my departure. Only two of the old gang were left and they were Good Ones. I ended up rejoining this Group 2.0 and have found it a fine experience ever since.

    • Writing groups can be wonderful or disastrous! Sometimes a new person coming in can ruin a perfectly good group. Glad your original group re-found itself!

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