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Starting Your Own Writing Circle

Although writing is often considered a solitary endeavor, writing together with a group of colleagues or peers can be a great way of making writing both manageable and fun.

During the regular academic year, the OWRC offers Open Writing Circles, a weekly writing group available to any and all UW grad writers. These sessions are facilitated by OWRC staff. Each 90-minute writing circle provides focused writing time as well as opportunity to check in with other writers, set goals, and ask questions.

Open Writing Circles can be helpful for graduate students looking for a flexible writing community. However, independently organized writing groups can also be an excellent source of collegial support. Below a few easy steps to help writers get started with their own writing groups.

Find Your Focus

Every writing group has its own set of interests and commitments depending on the writers it serves. Before starting your own writing circle, consider what you and your groupmates are looking for from your circle. By focusing the circle on meeting these shared expectations and needs, you can help ensure that the time you spend together is productive — whatever that looks like for you. Consider:

What kind of participation are looking for from your circle?

  • Accountability (e.g., gathering together to write independently in a shared environment)
  • Feedback (e.g., gathering to share and provide input on one another’s work)
  • Support (e.g., gathering to share and discuss writing practice, process, and experiences)
  • What are the minimum and maximum time durations for you to feel that you have gained something from participating in a writing circle meeting?

Identify a Meeting Space or Modality

Once you have established the primary purpose of your writing group, you will need to determine how your group will meet with one another. A virtual meeting space is often (but not always) easiest logistically, although in-person meetings can sometimes feel more connective. As a group, collectively identify your priorities and needs. Consider:


  • Are there any spatial, technological, or logistical considerations that need to be taken into account to ensure that everyone who wants to join can participate?

Engagement style

  • What is the groups preferred mode of meeting and communication? For example, some groups might prefer asynchronous communication via shared doc, while for others live face-to-face communication might be important.


  • Are writers comfortable with the space or platform proposed? This might be a technological consideration, but can also overlap with other concerns or considerations individuals may have.

Set a Schedule

One of the cornerstones of a successful writing group is a regular schedule. Online schedulers such as Doodle and When2Meet offer some quick and easy ways to poll your circle to find windows of time that routinely work for everyone.

In addition to determining meeting times, it is also important to consider how frequently you would like to meet. If you aren’t sure yet, try beginning with weekly or biweekly meetings. Depending on how your circle is feeling, you can ramp the frequency up or down. 

Write, Adapt, Repeat

Now that you have your group organized, the only thing left to do is write! Your first few meetings may be a little bumpy, but not to worry. It usually takes a couple of meetings to find the groups’ flow. If things are still feeling awkward after the first several meetings, reconvene with your circle to tinker and adapt until you find a process that works well for everyone. From there, just write and repeat!

Interested in learning more about forming, structuring, and facilitating group writing for yourself and others? UNC at Chapel Hill has great resources. We also love the resources at National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD). UW has an institutional membership, which allows faculty and graduate students to access NCFDD resources.