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How Group Writing Projects Help to Build Community

I’ve been reflecting on the community benefits of group writing projects after publishing the stellar results of the last project here.

These are the conclusions so far:

For the Participants

Taking part gives you:

  • Links back to your site
  • New vistors, readers and maybe subscribers
  • Comments from the organiser, and quite probably the other participants

Joining in:

  • Signals to others that you’re interested in participating in the wider blogosphere
  • Makes it easier for you to find others, and others to find you
  • Helps you connect up with writers with similar interests
  • Builds your confidence - projects often give you a challenge to stretch yourself a bit
  • Gives you a feel-good effect at being part of something bigger than you

For the Organiser

Running a project gives you many of the same benefits: comments, new readers, links back to your site.  It sends a signal to the blogging community that you’re interested in contributing, supporting, sharing and linking out.

It offers a challenge and a stretch, and will boost your confidence as an editor.

Projects are a lot of work though, and do require some care and attention.  Some of the lessons I’ve learned:

  • Keep it simple
  • Make it accessible to the widest number of people
  • Run your idea and draft announcement past someone else to make sure the instructions make sense
  • Ask others to help spread the word
  • You don’t need prizes: prizes make the whole thing more complex (random draw or judging, if judging, how?).  I’ve also noticed that people are more likely to take part when there are no prizes - it seems to free them up somehow
  • Issue reminders
  • Take the time to comment on every contribution
  • Take care with the round up post - as a courtesy to the participants and your readers you could provide an excerpt as well as a link
  • Be aware in advance that it’s a lot of time and work
  • Give people enough time to take part.  I’d suggest three weeks to give time for people to hear about it, think of a post to write, and then find time to work it into their schedule

The benefits of running a group writing project go beyond the links and the readership though - and that’s what makes them worth all this work.

It’ a little hard to put this into words, but it’s something like this.

When someone writes something for a project you’re running, it feels like a gift.

You don’t know what it’s going to be.  Everyone interprets the topic differently.  Creatively.  With wit, warmth, imagination.

And as  you open it up, you’re often overwhelmed with surprise and delight.

Because someone will have written something that will make you step back in wonder.

Will quite possibly make you want to cry.  Feel humbled that someone has written something so special, of such value, in response to your simple request.

The sense of connection, of community, with those of you who have conributed to the group writing projects here is very strong, and I am very grateful to everyone who’s taken the time and trouble to prove to me, time after time, that our words really do count.

What community benefits have you noticed from taking part in group writing projects?  If you’ve run them yourself, what were the main benefits you received?

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  1. Joely Black (@TheCharmQuark on Twitter) says:

    I’ve never actually participated in a group writing project. I suppose I’ve always been a lone wolf when it comes to the writing I do, and being constantly involved in that, I always seem to be deeply engrossed in the business of doing that.

    That said, I think I’ll get involved in the next one that shows up here.


    J xx

    Joely Black (@TheCharmQuark on Twitter)s last blog post..In the world after fixing

  2. Karen Swim
    Twitter: karenswim

    Joanna, I wanted to do a group writing project in February but wasn’t quite sure of the mechanics - prizes, timeline for submissions - and the more I tried to prepare the more complex it seemed to become so I tabled the idea. As always your willingness to share behind the curtain gives me the information I need to one day organise a group writing project. As a participant I have found that it makes me feel more connected to a community and helps me stretch my writing muscles, often pushing me out of a comfort zone, challenging me to try something new.

    Karen Swims last blog post..Planted in Adversity, Harvested in Hope

  3. Robert Hruzek says:

    You capture the essence quite well, Joanna - it’s all of this and more! But my favorite phrase is that participation is like a gift - that’s exactly how I feel every time someone contributes an entry to WILF!

    It kills me to miss one from someone I really respect and admire, too. (Note my apology for missing your last one! ) Luckily, I know, as they do, it’s all good!

    Robert Hruzeks last blog post..What I Learned From… Adversity

  4. Brad Shorr says:

    Hi Joanna, above all, I find group projects to be lots of fun, whether I’m a participant or organizer. Projects spark lively conversation, and force us to think a little outside the box as we struggle to make a project topic mesh with our blog’s theme … or not. Another aspect of the “fun” component is meeting new bloggers. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with a fellow participant in comments or on Twitter, because you have a shared experience. I like that.

    Can I include a shameless plug for a project I’m trying to develop? It’s called “How to Write a Website” and we really need people to contribute.

    We’re hoping to turn it into an e-book - anyone who writes or visits websites can contribute, so I’d say it’s fairly inclusive! :)

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Why URLs Should Contain Your Keywords

  5. Matt Hayward says:

    Being new to the whole blog scene, I’ve neither ran nor participated in a group writing project… Yet. Your advice here, Joanna, is as sound as I’ve come to expect.

    I look forward to the next project here, and will be sure to keep the advice on running a project in mind should I do a project in the future.

    Thanks for another great post.

  6. Ulla Hennig
    Twitter: ullahe

    I like to participate in Group Writing Projects because
    1) it makes me think of writing something special in order to meet the challenge
    2) I like the feeling of being part of a project, of “playing in a team”
    3) I like the additional traffic it brings to my blog.
    Participating in Group Writing Projects is fun, but also making oneself accountable - I promise to submit a certain blog post at a certain time covering a certain theme and I have to keep my promise. So there’s a little bit of pressure in it, but somehow I like that kind of pressure. (Weird me!)

    Ulla Hennigs last blog post..Spring has arrived!

  7. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Joely I’d be delighted if you did, though I appreciate that much of the writing - certainly the blogging dimension - is of a more personal nature at the moment.

    Karen I’d try and keep your first one as simple as possible - if you want to run the proposal by me before you launch it please do just let me know. I love the way GWPs get us out of our comfort zones too. Some of the pieces you’ve written for different projects have been awesome - almost like you have a different permission to really say what you’re feeling… it’s wonderful

    Robert well I’ve learned so much from watching the way you do it, and participating too. I’m not sure I’m going to manage this month’s WILF so honours and apologies are even ;-)

    Brad yes they are fun aren’t they? Maybe something to do with the interest in finding the hook or point of connection… everyone has gone through the same thought process, so have an immediate point of interest in common.

    Please do plug away at the project ;-)

    Matt I’m glad you found it useful, and I hope you’ll be able to participate in a future project

    Ulla thanks for explaining the benefits so clearly - I don’t think what you say is weird, it makes perfect sense to me, and I think is part of that feeling we get of doing something that’s a collective effort. Our words make a difference, they count, and need to be written.

  8. wilson says:

    Honestly, Joanna. Since I started to participate in your writing project, I felt more “Confident” in my “Writing” right now than ever before! :)

    For those that haven’t join it before, you should grab the opportunity, as you have nothing to lose but gaining a lot of useful things in the end…

    wilsons last blog post..Beware of The Germs That Hide inside the Overnight Water!

  9. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Wilson, that’s great feedback. I’m glad I finally persuaded you to join in!

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