I have never been much of a joiner.
At school we were more or less forced to sign up for at least one sort of social club – a noble attempt on the part of the South African school system to get us to interact with others. In primary school I joined the chess club. In hindsight it was probably not the best decision I could have made for my social standing but then I have always been a bit of a social retard at heart.
In high school I waxed clever and joined the French Club. The teacher who ran it spent most of her time going on about her wonderful son who was a student at the private boys’ school across town, so it was the easy way out because we never really did anything except chat. Not in French either, if you’ll pardon my Francais.
After school I was finally released from my forced participation in group activities. Freedom! Fantastic.
And then I started writing. Seriously writing, that is. A solitary occupation by nature, ideal for someone like me. Except that I began to need feedback, and while random comments on a blog are great, I felt I was lacking in interaction with other writers. People who do what I do. People with informed opinions (no offense intended to you, of course, my highly valued blog-readers!)
So I found a local writer’s group and started attending their monthly meetings. The first time I read out my work at a meeting I was a bundle of nerves – terrified. What if they hated it? What if it’s shite? What if… what if… well as it turned out, they liked it. They said such nice things about my writing. More importantly, they gave honest feedback about what I could do make it even better.
That, my friends, is priceless.
And here I am, a year-and-a-half later, still going to the monthly meetings. We have a website now. And somewhere along the line I have become an integral part of the group. When our chairman was unable to attend last month, he asked me to take the meeting instead. Huh? How did that happen?! I have yet to have my manuscript published, yet here I am taking an active role in my writer’s group.
It’s good for my ego, I’ll admit. They must value my opinions, right? Which I take to mean that the stuff I read out at the meetings can’t be all bad.
And so, twenty-something years after leaving high school I have finally figured out that group activities can be a good thing. I still don’t like to get involved – I have enough in my life without taking on extra responsibilites – but when it comes to the writing group I reckon the benefits I get out of it justify the time and effort I find myself putting into it.
It turns out I may be more of a joiner than I thought I was.