How CWC Helped Me Form a Writing Group

Writing Group in Chicago

At CWC, we take pride in connecting writers to publishing professionals. However, sometimes it’s more important that writers form lasting friendships with each other. This means forming a writing group. CWC attendee Megy Karydes shares how CWC helped her form her own writing group.

Writers often lament that ours is a solitary career. We often do our best writing in quiet spaces. To be sure, I relish my quiet time and carve it out to write, but I come from a marketing and business background where I learned that collaborating with others helps me create a better product. This is why I’m a proponent of having strong tribes and why I wanted to form a writing group. My writing tribes help me become better at my writing craft.

I’ve organized monthly gatherings of writers and have writing groups where we bounce off ideas but what was missing from my groups was accountability and focus. Most of us are self-motivated and deadline-driven but rarely do we have the time to focus on our business regularly when we’re too busy working on the next deadline or trying to land that next assignment. I wanted an accountability tribe but wasn’t sure how to go about forming one. Luckily, this year’s Chicago Writers Conference had a session on this exact topic and the recommendations Mare Swallow and her team provided armed me with the tools to create one.

How Did We Make It Happen?

I’d already begun by asking some friends if they’d want to be part of a writing accountability group and then my friend Dawn Reiss reached out and asked me the same question. “When we talked, it was an eureka moment,” admits Dawn. “And that synergy is what it is all about. If we help each other, we’ll collectively get better as a group. Plus, she is fantastic at putting together meeting agendas.”

The “Make It Happen” Group Takes Shape

Dawn and I discussed how our group would look and I shared much of Mare’s recommendations and the panel’s cautionary tales such as making sure we all share the same goals from a writing group. For example, we’re all non-fiction writers and, for the most part, feature and lifestyle writers. A novelist asked to join but after he and I chatted, it became clear he wouldn’t be a good match. Knowing that in advance, as Mare said during the panel discussion, will help us all in the long run.

Fast forward five weeks post-CWC and six freelance writers are sitting in a coffee shop’s meeting space discussing our most proudest writing accomplishments from this past year, what we want to achieve in 2016, and how each of us can help each other reach those goals. We share ideas, contacts, and resources. Our group is comprised of writers who cover travel, business, food, music, social justice, politics, health, and fitness. Most of us have more than five years of professional writing experience. Collectively, our bylines have appeared in outlets such as TIME, Chicago Tribune, Sierra, Midwest Living, Men’s Health, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Mashable and Playboy.

Among our goals: write a travel story for AFAR; find funding to write a big-picture magazine story or series that requires more in-depth research; write at least one article about a fitness or endurance-sports topics for the New York Times or Wall Street Journal; diversify the writing portfolio and try to write some travel pieces. Working together, I’m confident that each of us will meet our goals next year. Our accountability group will help us make our goals more than just dreams.

“The idea of a writing accountability group appeals to me because it’s an extra check on my longer-term aims and goals,” says Cindy Kuzma, one of our members. “Merely speaking these targets aloud makes them more concrete and meaningful to me. And having colleagues to report back to means I will have to tackle them one way or the other – either actively pursuing them or actively deciding to focus in a different direction. Either way, I can’t merely let them wither away and fade for lack of care and attention. Plus, it’s just wonderful to get in a room with smart, successful writers who understand the ups and downs of the freelance life!”

Fellow member Debbie Carlson joined because she values the ability to receive (and give) feedback and brainstorm with others. “I also think it’s important to share when you can – whether it’s sources, ideas or offer other help. Sorta good karma.”

I left my first Chicago Writers Conference feeling energized and committed to my writing work. I also learned how to take something I’ve been wanting to do for some time and put it into action almost immediately. I’m confident our Make It Happen Writing Accountability Group will make each of us a stronger writer and business professional because we’ve committed ourselves to supporting each other.

Megy Karydes is a Chicago-based writer and marketing professional. A contributor to Forbes, her articles have also been published in USA Today, Fortune, Midwest Living, Chicago Health, Natural Awakenings, Chicago Tribune and Chicago Reader, among others. Find her at
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