I had my first writing group session in over two years last night, and it felt wonderful. Leaving Utah, one of the main things I was going to miss was the writing group. I'd been in one for years and years, and going without one wasn't something I was crazy about. But I thought I'd get by. I'd still send copies of my books out to friends, get critiques--that sort of thing. Writing group was just there to motivate me, right?
In the two years I've gone without it, I've discovered what else writing group does besides get you to write (something I don't need it to do--I write on my own). It gives you a support structure--other writers who do what you do and want what you want. People you can complain to when something goes wrong, or celebrate with when something goes well. People who give immediate feedback--who can reassure you that you're doing well, or remind you when you're off. It gives you some sort of accountability--a tangible audience that you can interact with.
Yes, writing groups can go wrong. They can bicker, they can become petty, then can drag you down. But when they go right, they are tremendously useful things for writers--and authors--to have. I'm extremely pleased to have one going again, even if it will take a chunk out of my already busy schedule.
To me, it's time well spent.