Sunday, March 11, 2012
Writers' Organizations: To Stay or To Leave?
I have been a member of several writers' organizations for quite some time, yet I've become to doubt what they are bringing to my life. Don't get me wrong, I think these groups are incredibly important for networking, making friends, and just socializing in general. Many even introduce opportunities writers wouldn't otherwise find.
I've decided to take a break from all of them, every single one. I am not renewing my membership in a single group this year. I need to reassess and figure out what is beneficial to my life and my career. Part of that is cutting away dead weight.
I have stopped participating in the online listserv for one group. Another group's newsletter stopped arriving, and I didn't even notice until it came time to renew the membership. The other thing I've realized is that for the most part, these groups haven't contributed a lot to my book sales. I didn't even remember to include them in my recent promotional efforts.
I have lots of author friends I can discuss the in and outs of writing with. I have a great base of people who support me and my work. I gladly concede some of them I met through the writers' groups of which I've been a member.
I am currently at a point where I'm questioning whether or not I get my money's worth by the value each group brings to my life. If I can have zero contact with any particular group and find it doesn't even impact my life enough for me to notice, then perhaps that group isn't working for me.
In the past, every group I've been a member of has contributed something positive to my life or at least my writing career. I don't regret any membership I've had, but life changes requiring reassessment.
I'm not saying what anyone else should do, that's your decision. I would urge you however to look at all parts of your life and see what contributes the most to your success, your goals, and your life. If something doesn't, it may be time to step away even if only temporarily. Don't feel guilty about it either. The organization will go on without you. If not, then how much was it really doing for you to begin with? This is one istance when it is definitely permissable to ask yourself that question. After all, you pay for the privilege of being a part of the group. If you're not getting your money's worth, you should stop paying for that privilege.
There's the part of me that has been President of one writing organization and the Chair of another that is going but...but...but... I know these organizations rely on membership fees to survive; however, if the organization isn't meeting the needs of its members to the point the members aren't renewing, the organization might need to take a look at how it operates. After all it should be there to serve the needs of its members. Membership should be mutually beneficial for the member and the organization.
My hiatus from all my writers' groups is deliberate and purposeful. It is a part of the reassessment of what works and what doesn't for my writing career. It is in no way an indictment of any writers' group.
I'm simply taking control of my life and my career rather than allowing them to control me.
T. L. Cooper grew up on a farm in Tollesboro, Kentucky. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Eastern Kentucky University. Her poems, short stories, articles, and essays have appeared online, in books, and in magazines. Her published work includes a novel, All She Ever Wanted and four books of poetry. When not writing, she enjoys yoga, golf, and traveling. Currently, she resides in Albany, Oregon.