I signed up for writing-related Meetup.com notifications, and one said this:
Do you have a passion for writing but find it hard to carve out time to engage in the practice of it? It can be hard to find a local writing group convenient for your schedule. If you love to write and would like to be surrounded by others who motivate you, this is the place for you
If “you have a passion for writing,” you don’t need other people around you, any more than if you have a passion for masturbation you need a group wank. You just do it, and masturbation might arguably be the world’s most common leisure activity (among the young at the very least).
For 99% of people, if you “find it hard to carve out time to engage in the practice of [writing],” the solution is simple: redirect time spent on TV and Facebook to writing. If I recall correctly, William Gibson said that he doesn’t write all the time; he’s merely reallocated the time most people spend watching TV to writing. I’m not arguing that would-be writers should never watch TV, but I am arguing that needing extrinsic motivation is, in most circumstances, inferior to having intrinsic motivation.
People also may underestimate how much can be done in small blocks of time. This post, for example, has only taken me a couple of minutes. I haven’t been posting much because I’ve been self-editing a novel and writing proposals. Blogging gets crowded out by those activities. Yet it’s still possible for me to write a short post that says something substantive in about 15 minutes. Cory Doctorow has said in various places that he writes 250 words of fiction every day. A “typical” novel is about 80,000 – 90,000 words. At 250 words per day, you can write a novel in 320 days.
If you have a “passion” for writing, you can express it every day, just like many of you love yourselves every day. You don’t need a group to do it. The need for a group is identical to the need for excuses.
I’m not opposed to writers’ groups in all shapes and forms, and the right group at the right time could in principle provide valuable feedback for the right person (and the right person could give valuable feedback to others). But the raw work should be done alone, and the door opened to others when that work is done.