People join writers’ groups for various reasons: to network, to learn what software and tools are available, to look for opportunities, and to learn how to build their portfolios. The opportunities in this post will skew toward professional writing, more specifically technical writing as it relates to the author’s experiences.
Writers just starting out in their careers may join a writers’ group in order to network with other writers. Doing so opens them up to learning not only about job opportunities, but opportunities for volunteering or collaborating in their area of expertise. It’s a great to build your portfolio before getting your first big writing job, or to exhibit a wider range of writing styles. If the group meets in person, and you’re in a larger city, the locations may vary from meeting to meeting to give members a chance to attend from different parts of town. If you’re job searching, don’t skip meetings in other parts of town! You never know when you may have an opportunity to interview in that area, and some familiarity with it will help reduce stress on the interview day. Plus, you’ll have a better idea of what your daily commute could look like, assuming you aren’t working remotely.
The benefits of joining a professional networking group include:
- Learning the skillsets of other writers in your area of interest
- Getting feedback when you have a bit of writer’s block or something just doesn’t look right
- Learning about new software and whether the update is worth it
- Understanding how other writers approach problems. (This is particularly helpful if you’ve landed a role as the “lone writer” in your organization or department – you’ll feel less alone and get experienced advice on whether to make the leap from Word to MadCap Flare or another authoring tool.)
Many of these groups have job boards where other writers share their stories about how they transitioned from marketing writing to technical writing, or from technical writing to UX writing, for example.
Opportunities for writers to expand their portfolio include: Google’s Season of Docs (technical writing), NanoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and contributing to open source projects that need documentation on GitHub.
Some professional writing networking groups or professional societies include Slack workspaces such as:
- Write The Docs – This 10,000+ member group has a heavier focus on Docs As Code and technical writing and includes members who are writers, managers, tech support, and developers.
- MadCap Flare Users Group – Run by MadCap Software, this group requires an invitation to join but is a good place to ask questions when learning Flare, Capture, or Central and to find out the latest MadCap news. Read about other writers’ experiences with the latest updates to help you decide to update your software.
- A11y – a11y is a widely-used abbreviation for accessibility. This group isn’t focused on writing but is geared towards individuals who work with accessibility and can be a resource for learning more about accessibility.
- Code & Supply – This workspace is international and focuses on developers, making it a great resource for those in the world of software or API documentation.
Other notable groups:
- Interaction Design Foundation (interaction-design.org) is a place to learn more about user experience and usability, which is becoming more important across different writing fields.
- International Association of Business Communicators (iabc.com) is a professional organization for writers interested in business writing and marketing.
- The Society for Technical Communication (stc.org), more widely known as STC, is a professional networking group with an annual conference, special interest groups (SIGs), and a professional magazine and journal.
Joining a writing group, professionally or just for fun, can expand your opportunities and knowledge in ways you may not realize until you do it. In addition to what I’ve mentioned above, check out online and in-person writing groups on websites such as Meetup.com and EventBrite. You are sure to find at least one that is a great fit for your needs.