How do we keep the anxiety and writer's block from overwhelming us between packets? Well, one thing I know is that our mentors are there for us. If you're hanging on the edge by a pinky nail, shoot your mentor an email or a call, and I bet you'll end up feeling better. The biggest thing to remember is that we are all part of a writing culture, so we can reach out to our fellow writers. Even though I was not living in a writerly community a couple months ago and recently made a move across country, my computer keeps me connected to a writing community wherever I go.
Midway through last year, a friend invited me to join an online writing group, and, like Frost's road less traveled, it has made all the difference. We have just completed week 19 with Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux's The Poet's Companion. Every week, we read a chapter in the book, write a poem inspired by one of the prompts at the end of the chapter, email our poems to everyone in the group, and respond to each other's poems. It's totally low stress, and it keeps me talking with people who like craft talk, helps me produce at least one new poem a week, and provides practice with critical response. How awesome is it to have five or so pairs of eyes see my writing, so I have additional feedback for my revisions. It's a win-win. Since I've joined the online writing group, my pull is always full of water, and I know my writing group buddies are going to be the floaties that keep me from drowning.
I do have some tips:
1. Keep everything casual and fun. This should be low stress.
2. Even though the group should be fun, always think about it as a support system. You want to receive support, so be sure to always provide support by carefully reading and thoughtfully responding to your members' writing.
3. Thank your members for the comments they provide.
4. Don't post any of your workshop pieces on a public site because that counts as publishing. Use email, so only the people in your group see the poems, fiction or nonfiction.