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Some thoughts for young surgeons

How to Use Writing Groups

If you are struggling to begin or complete a writing project, consider joining a writing group. Writing groups are small groups of individuals who share their writing and encourage each other. They may be geographically based (and have real, physical meetings) or virtual (and meet only through the Internet). Groups exist at most academic centers and in many communities.

The smallest groups consist of just two people, who act as writing buddies, encourage each other, and critique each other’s work. Three or more is ideal, so that you get a mix of opinions.

Find a group that meets your needs – that is, one that is devoted to scholarly papers, to creative writing, or to grant writing. If you can’t find a group that meets your needs, form one. Approach a couple of writers of your acquaintance, ideally in different but related disciplines. Look at the bulletin board in your local library or bookstore. Post a note soliciting members.

A newly-formed group should agree on some ground rules, such as:
• How often the group will meet (whether physically or via the Internet)
• Whether the group will periodically write in response to a shared prompt (useful for creative writers)
• How often a member will send something for critique
• Critiques should be constructive and concrete (give examples)
• How many pieces a member is expected to critique over the course of a year
• How members will celebrate successes – successful completion, publication, or funding

Sometimes groups agree that each member will commit a certain amount of time per week to writing. This can be particularly useful for procrastinators.

Remember: you will get more out of your writing group if you contribute and critique actively.

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