Want to be a better writer? Do it in groups.

Writing has taken me on many adventures: How many views will this article get? After five drafts, will the editor FINALLY accept this? (Sometimes, the answer was no.) Yay, someone cited me! After 2 years and 3 journal rejections, do we kill this piece or revive it?

My most exciting adventures occurred when the writing was collaborative. As much as I love writing solo pieces — they are a great way for me to self-reflect and use what is truly my own voice — collaborative writing projects push me in ways solo pieces never could.

Here are a handful of ways group writing has made me a better writer:

  • My co-authors consistently suggest (either through edits or straight out telling me) that I use too many words. I repeat stuff. I say the same thing over and over. I have (slowly) learned to correct that.
  • Sometimes my co-authors would decide to ditch pages and pages of my hard work. This can be quite painful. Then I realized this is simply part of the process. Always write your best but realize that deleting is a necessary part of the editing process.
  • It’s not me. It’s not them either. It’s the words. I’ve learned not to take negative feedback personally. Ultimately it’s just words on a screen. Words that I can change. The first time one of my articles got rejected, I was in tears. Granted, the reviewers could have been more tactful, but I took it too personally. Now, instead of tears, my knee jerk reaction to rejection is “Oh well. Where do we send it next?”
  • Speaking of rejections, writing in groups has taught me that rejection happens a LOT more often than most people think. There’s comfort in knowing this.
  • I’ve learned that at least some people like the way I write, because they told me so. Others keep wanting to do writing projects with me, so I take that as a good sign too. If I didn’t write collaboratively, I would never know this. Self-doubt is a strong deterrent to writing. Do it in groups and the self-doubt will slowly vanish.

When was the last time you participated in a group writing project? I’m not talking about the time when someone wrote something, you gave a few pointers, and went on your way. I’m talking about the kind of writing project where everyone in the group claims some portion of ownership. The kind of writing project where most (if not all) of the other writers are better than you. The kind of writing project that pushes you towards your edge, and then pushes some more.

That’s how you become a better writer.


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