Bailey and Joey are supportive of my writing.

Bailey and Joey are supportive of my writing.

Writing is a solitary enterprise, which may explain the vast number of organizations dedicated to the craft. Should you join one or more? Maybe. Some writers enjoy, or even crave, the occasional company of kindred souls. Others feel no need to engage.

My experiences have been both rewarding and frustrating.

On one hand, I have met fascinating people, picked up job leads, and learned skills that make me more profitable.

On the other, some groups are more inclusive than others. Some people are downright catty. I once engaged in getting-to-know you conversation with another attendee at a gathering of journalists. In so doing, I mentioned I had freelanced for the Chicago Tribune for more than 20 years. “Boy, you’re in a rut, aren’t you?” she exclaimed. Her remark stung–I’m proud of my long-time association with the newspaper. That’s not the only reason I shortened my relationship with that organization, but it is indicative.

Different writing groups have different objectives and formats. To help you find a compatible match, here is a rundown on the various types:

* Critique groups read your work and then offer commentary and advice. Groups usually are small and meet at homes, coffee shops or libraries. You can also find critique groups online.

* Niche groups serve writers of specific genres. If your primary interest is romantic novels, for example, you may find Romance Writers of America to be more relevant than a group of generalists or nonfiction writers. Other niche organizations are the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

* Professional journalism organizations often provide career development programs, networking opportunities and conferences. They sometimes sponsor service programs such as an annual communications contest for high schools or scholarships for college students. Some professional groups, such as the American Society of Journalists and Authors, have qualifying standards for new members.

* Accountability groups get down to business. Members set goals, say, sending 5 query letters each week or finishing to more chapters, before the next meeting.

* Create your own group. My favorite writing group is an assemblage of remarkable women who have become some of my dearest friends. Most of us met in a writing class at a local community college, and we decided to stay in touch. A few came along later. At first we operated as an accountability group. Now we mostly keep up on Facebook, but still get together for a pitch-in dinner once a year. We cheer each other on in all endeavors, whether a hard-won assignment, a new boyfriend or a health crisis.

* Business networking groups. When you join the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary or other community organization, you’ll be one of the few writers, perhaps the only one. Other members will be more likely to call on you rather than someone they don’t know to write their brochures, press releases and website copy. My book co-author, Jackie Walker, found me by looking up writers in the member directory of Fashion Group International, a group we both belong to.

Before you sign up, give thought to what you can give. The success of any group depends on the willingness of its members to participate in meetings, serve on committees and ultimately take leadership positions. What you get is proportional to what you put in.

I leave you with another story: A writer friend once served on the board of a professional communications organization. Years later her marriage broke up and she realized she needed to trade her freelancing lifestyle for the security of full-time employment. Another board member from that term tipped her off to an upcoming editorial opening at her company. My friend got the job before it was ever posted to the public.