About eight months ago, I joined a creative writing group in Manchester. It was a modest group of a few like-minded people who wanted a reason to write… something. Anything. The people in the room just wanted to write stuff and get feedback and do it in a place that felt comfortable and safe to do so. It was week two (I had sadly missed week one) and the group was still kind of finding its feet. We were nestled into the gaudily decorated ‘dining room’ at Ziferblat on Edge Street (if you’ve been there, you know the one: flowers on the walls, flowers on the tables and a psychedelic vibe all round), a place where time literally is money so you want your visit to be worth while.
Everyone in the room was new to each other and probably a little bit nervous (although I don’t think anyone wanted to admit it). It was a new feeling (most people hadn’t had writers’ group experience before attending and those that had told horror stories that we were desperate not to emulate) but most of all we were excited to get started. Most weeks were a case of sharing stories that had been written outside of the group and writing new ones together within. Speaking solely about my own output: some stories were good, some were terrible but the feedback was always extraordinarily valuable and there was never any sense of competition. We all wanted to do our best and we wanted that from each other too.
As the weeks passed, the group evolved. We had people whose works were positive and heartwarming. There were others whose tales were bone-chilling and grotesque (but, you know, in the good way). Some stories were amusing, or melancholy, or terrifying, or fantastical. Exciting differences of style and execution were on display each week. We had poetry and prose and music and everything in between (whatever lies in between those things).
As time passed we added new members and said goodbye to others but, throughout whatever changes we faced, the group endured. One week the room would be full to bursting and the next may have only seen two attendees, but the group continued. Now we have a writing group with a number of core members who are there weekly with stories to share and lessons to learn. We regularly go over the originally planned two hour time limit because we are enjoying the time spent together. I can comfortably say that my writing has improved dramatically since the foundation of the group and the introduction of its feedback on my prose. My aim when I joined the group was to be a better writer and to write more often. This group has certainly helped me to achieve at least some of that.
We’ve recently taken the step of branching out a little too. We’ve started up a Twitter account (@ZiferWritersMCR) with an Instagram account to follow soon. We want to meet other groups and get the word out about ours. The possibility for collaboration is incredible and it’s time that we look into that properly (and where better to do that than Twitter, right?). Being a group of people that write is great, but the possibility is there for so much more.
The biggest change that I’ve felt in this group is also the schmaltziest one. We are no longer simply people who write together in a room. We’re friends. I genuinely care about what they think of my work and I’m eager every week to hear more of theirs. I look forward to Monday nights, not just for what I will be able to produce or share, but for who I might see and the stories they might have for me to hear. It’s a great feeling that I hope the rest share (or else I have properly embarrassed myself). It is also most probably a feeling that wouldn’t be possible were it not for the nature of some of the stories that we’ve shared. The fact that we have been able to do that is a testament to the skill and maturity of the group as a whole.
We are ZiferWritersMCR and our best work is yet to come.