Ten tips for running writing groups

Anne Taylor
27 July 2017

There’s more to think about than exercises when you’re setting up a workshop. Our Running Writing Groups tutor Anne Taylor has put together her ten most important pieces of advice for anyone looking to get involved in holding their own workshops.

  • Learn the principles of running a writing workshop
  • Identify what kind of workshop you would like to run
  • Develop an action plan for getting your workshop off the ground
Running Writing Groups

Are you a writer thinking about setting up a creative writing group but not feeling brave enough to take that first step? Or perhaps you already run writing workshops but have questions about whether you are on the right track?

Whether it is poetry or fiction, for beginners or the more experienced, workshops for fun and personal development or with a focus on craft and technique, a growing number of people are running groups for writers.

There is little guidance available, however, for those starting out or for those who want to develop their skills.

In researching our new course Running Writing Groups, I’ve put together this list of tips garnered from writing group facilitators with years of combined experience on how to build your confidence and skills, and keep your participants happy.

Plan and prepare

Know your audience and prepare content accordingly. Keep the goal of your session, or series of sessions, in your mind at all times.

Know something about group dynamics

It’s important to understand how people tend to behave in groups, so that you can appreciate what is normal and not take things too personally if a challenging issue does arise.

Learn how to run a group by watching how others do it.

Anne Taylor

Create a safe space

Participants need to feel valued and respected, so clear ground-rules on confidentiality, sharing, listening and feedback are crucial.

Attend as many writing workshops as you can

Learn how to run a group by watching how others do it – think about what you like about how other people facilitate their groups, and what you don’t.

Trust the group

Be flexible – don’t feel you have to cover everything you have prepared, and let the group members go deeper with material if they want to.

It’s OK to cry

Make people aware of how writing is an emotional pursuit. Whether you are running a writing group focusing on craft or for wellbeing, writing can prompt some strong emotions.

A smooth running workshop will build confidence and respect.

Anne Taylor

It’s not about you

Remember that you are there for the group. A good facilitator will make sure attention is shared and help participants to find their own way forward, rather than showing them the way.

Name what’s in the room

If someone is talking too much, for example, you might invite people to be a little more brief, so that everyone gets a chance to contribute.

Think practicalities

Make sure to book a quiet, private room. Check that you know things like how to get in and lock up, and where the tea and coffee facilities are. Smooth running will build confidence and respect.

Have fun!

Writing is an enjoyable activity, so there is no need to make things too seriously. Playful and expressive writing will often take people by surprise.

Anne Taylor

Anne Taylor is a professional writer, teacher, coach and writing group facilitator. She has many years experience of working as a journalist and copywriter, and as a lecturer in Higher Education. Since securing an MA in Creative Writing and Personal Development from the University of Sussex, she has been running writing groups in a range of health and community settings. She has a special interest in medical humanities and professional development and has published and presented her work on using creative writing with medical students. She is also chair of Lapidus Cornwall and is a trained NAWE/Arvon Foundation writing coach.

Running Writing Workshops

Begins: 26 September 2022