When I first started writing novels I’d get a few months into a new project and find myself wondering, why can’t this job be like other jobs? Why can’t a writer go to work each day, sit in an office surrounded by other writers, all typing merrily away? Why can’t we hold board meetings to discuss various ‘department projects’ or gather around the water cooler and nut out individual problems?
This daydream came to me so often, after a while I began to wonder if at least some of those things weren’t possible. I began to experiment with different ways of writing with others and over time arrived at a pleasant and surprising conclusion: for nearly every stage of the writing process there is a group activity I can take part in that makes the process far less lonely, a lot more fun, yet every bit as, if not more, productive.
So if you’re looking for ways to help keep yourself and friends writing in 2015, here are some fun ways I’ve found:
Pack Writing. Two or more friends get together for a day, or even just an afternoon, sit around someone’s kitchen table and work on their individual projects. Provided you don’t lapse into talking, writing with others creates a wonderful group energy, the experience much like riding a wave. For more variety, every time your ‘pack’ gets together it can be at a different member’s home.
Café Writing. Meet your writing friends at a café and freewrite together over coffee. Describe the setting, the people going by, record snippets of overheard conversation or come armed with topics to write about.
Have Pen/Will Travel. Same as the above but you meet in a different place every time: a park, a garden, a gallery, at the beach, an old ruin, an interesting building, etc. Form a group and let a different member select the venue each time you meet.
Freewriting/Flash Fiction Marathons. These work best with 3 to 6 people (any more and the readings take too long). Everyone brings a topic or two (and their lunch) and you spend the day writing and reading to each other: someone gives a topic, you set a timer for ten minutes and people either freewrite (ala Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones) or try to create a short short story (ala Roberta Allen’s approach in Fast Fiction)
Brainstorming Sessions. Hit a snag in your current story? Got an idea but don’t know how to develop into a plot? Get together with three of four writing buddies (who bring any problems they might be having) and kick around solutions over coffee or lunch.
Writing Retreats. If you’ve got the time and a suitable venue, nothing beats a writing retreat for getting masses of work done in a short time. No exercises provided, participants simply bring their current work in progress and work independently in an environment free of the distractions they’d have at home. (For more on retreats see my post dated March 2014)
None of the above activities needs a co-coordinator. They can be organized by any group of friends and accommodate writers of all different levels. Most require little planning and work best with fewer numbers so they cater well to individual needs and schedules.
For a creative shot in the arm, write with others in all sorts of ways and for all different purposes – groups large and small, narrow-interest or broad-focus, meeting regularly or on the spur of the moment.
Getting together with other writers reinforces the sense that what we do is important and meaningful. It’s a way to keep each other writing and remind us to have fun in the process.
Happy New Year and may the muses be with you in 2015!