When Someone Quits Your Writing Group


sailing awayEarlier this week, one of the members of my writing group decided that it wasn’t worth the time or effort anymore (actually, I have no idea what drew them to the conclusion, just that they did indeed decide to not be a member of the writing group anymore). In the cold-hearted sense, the writing group should survive–we have 3 people in total now, and I think that’s a feasible number to get good feedback on work and to keep the drive up to produce–granted, we brought on the 4th (now our 3rd) because I felt, at least, that we should have some more voices–but at least now we have a ready replacement.

In the non cold-hearted sense, though, it’s a very weird feeling to lose someone from something that is so tight knit and important to me. It’s not as though we’re not going to talk to the guy anymore, of course–we’ll still share the near-constant email chains we’ve always shared and the occasional physical, drinking check-ins, but all the same: my writing group has lost a founding member, and It’s making me more upset than I thought it would.

I had a feeling, of course, that it was coming. Participation was low and there was seemingly no time to do so even if it was desired. Still, I was hoping that the MIA nature of their involvement was just a momentary thing–something that they’d see as a phase and then come back to contribute as strongly as they did in the past. I guess I was wrong.

After it happened, I wondered why someone would leave, and I think it can come down to any number of things when we’re talking about a writing group:

  1. No time to be part of a group
  2. A lack of writing
  3. The group doesn’t satisfy needs
  4. The group isn’t supportive/critical
  5. Personal life circumstances

Or anything else, really. But out of all of those, 3 and 4 are the most concerning. Concerning because it implies, more or less, that your writing group has something wrong with it, something that can drive people away, and that’s kind of catastrophic if you think about it. I suppose that we’ll be bringing new people into the group eventually–if not to bring us back up to a healthy 4 people, at least because we’ll come across someone who we simply think would be a good fit. But what if they hang out for only a few weeks and then decide that they, too, aren’t really feeling supported nor getting what they need from the group? How do you change the dynamic of something like that?

I’m not saying that this was the problem, of course. I haven’t yet reached out to the person leaving the group to ask specifically why they left (I was told via a phone call from another member of the group, and then told in the presence of the person leaving who didn’t say it aloud even after it was brought up). Because of that I’ve been trying to imagine why I’d leave a group–and how the hell I’d keep writing if not for the demand of the group to produce.

For me, I guess, I need the push to write. I need to know that my writing is going to be seen by people who I’ve asked to specifically look at it critically and make suggestions or corrections. Without that, I have no drive. I have no interest in writing at all. I guess I need to have that ego boost that comes with people you respect telling you you’re doing good work. Go figure.

There’s also the chance that they’ll come back, of course. That they just need the break. But there is something so concerning about the loss itself, whether or not they ever decide to come back or even start up a writing group of their own.

I realize this is a rambling post–and I appreciate if you followed along. I’m just trying to figure out this new sort of situation.

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