Benefits of Group Writing

By Christopher Valencia |

This summer, I got the opportunity to join a writer’s group with the UCR Latino and Latin American Studies Research Center. The group consisted of Ph.D. students, Ph.D. graduates, local professors, and others working in the area who were doing some form of writing. 

It was quite a wonderful experience. We met every Friday from 9AM-12PM at a small local Mexican restaurant, enjoyed some coffee and delicious food for brunch (huevos, frijoles con arroz, y enchiladas!), socialized a bit, and then we got straight to business!


[Image Description: An image of enchiladas.]

Pictured: I'm starting to feel hungry now.

Those leading this time wanted to encourage the practice of collective writing, that is, writing in community. There are several philosophies behind such a practice, but to simplify things, I will focus on some of the simple benefits of collective writing that stood out to me. Based on my experience, I would also like to encourage you – if you get the opportunity – to join a writer’s group and see how you like it. (GWC has a Weekly Digital Writer’s Room if you want to try it!)

Goal Oriented:


[Image Description: A team of cartoon characters with the caption: “Squad Goals.”]

Pictured: You and the people you write with.

Before we started, the facilitator of this time allowed us to go around and introduce ourselves. We also had to say what we would accomplish in the next 3 hours. Week after week, we all made progress on our goals. Eventually, some of those in the room submitted the final draft of their dissertation, and others submitted their manuscript for publication. I was impressed that such a group could help writers accomplish their goals. Setting a plan for our designated writing time encouraged us to focus our energy on that one task and make as much progress as possible. At the end of our time, we also got to share what we accomplished during our writing session; in a real sense, this practice kept us accountable to each other and fostered an atmosphere of productivity.

Timed-Writing with Breaks 

They did not make us write non-stop for 3 hours during these writing sessions. Instead, with a timer, the facilitator allowed us to write for about 25-30 minutes. When the timer went off, we took a break for 5 minutes; we repeated this process about four times. These small breaks reminded me that sometimes we need to step back from our writing momentarily. When we are in the zone – wholly absorbed in our work – we may not notice how much mental energy we spend. A small break allows us to pause, take a mental break, and come back to the task with more energy. 

No Distractions 

Early on, the facilitator asked us to put our cell phones on silent. In the restaurant, we did not have any Wi-Fi either. The facilitator did not want us distracted by our inboxes or all the social media apps on our phones. At times, the small devices in our hands can make us less productive. Maybe that next great sentence you would write was just about to come, but then you got a small notification on your phone – and the thought drifted away. Excellent writing can be like snapping a picture of lighting during a thunderstorm. We just do not know when the lightning will strike. But, when the lightning strikes, we must be ready to capture it. 


[Image Description: Image of someone taking pictures of lightning.]

Pictured: Be an opportunist in your writing!

Words of Advice: 

Usually, at the end of our writing sessions, after we shared what we accomplished during each session, one of our facilitators – a professor at UCR – always offered some words of advice:

“This is my experience. Some days, you will have good days in writing, and some days, you will have bad days. But, regardless of what type of day you have, if you spent some time writing, you made progress for that day.”

“Writing is like going to the gym. Like exercise, you need to spend adequate time on it throughout the week. The results will not come immediately, but in time, you will see improvement.”

“A lot of my first drafts are trash. But, despite that, what makes up for this is persistence and diligence. Other times, you will write and be on a roll.”


[Image Description: Kermit the Frog drinking a cup of tea.]

Pictured: Kermit is satisfied with his work.

Building Community and Learning Together

During my time with this group, I met some new colleagues and got more connected with a vibrant academic community. Community building could be a great benefit of joining a writing group – especially if it is tailored toward your area of research. You may meet a colleague researching something similar or related to your work. Overall, this community fostered a sense of communal learning; during each session, we encouraged and learned from one another by listening to each other’s goals. 

I hope these points inspire you to check out a writing group. It can be a way to make progress on a writing project you are working on!