I was sitting cross-legged on my couch in Chiang Mai, Thailand when I sent my friend the following message:
Do you want to meet up today? I haven’t left my apartment in 9 days, and I’m quite sure I haven’t changed my clothes in 4.
I was in the middle of a huge launch, and had holed up to write nearly 40K words of sales copy and content.
As a writer, the solitary existence is preferred by most to get their quality work done. I’m not sure if it is the need to immerse yourself in the sea of text and whitespace to truly focus, or if it is imperative to corral the ruckus of voices and ideas throttling through your brain and fighting their way onto the page.
I’d like to say that was the only time that has happened in my writing career. I’d like to say that didn’t happen last week. Well last week I only went two days not leaving the house. We won’t talk about how many times I changed my clothes.
Sounds exciting, huh? Kinda shatters the beautiful myth of writers who sit in cafes with their espresso and notebooks, churning out novel after novel.
If anything, it should explain to you why Jack became a very dull boy and went a LITTLE axe murdery in a quiet hotel with his family.
Which is why I like to sneak out regularly to meet up with other writers for some little co-writing sessions.
What’s a co-writing session you ask?
It’s pretty much a co-working session, except you don’t talk to anyone and you type until your fingers bleed.
Intrigued? Let me tell you more.
Occasionally, writers will get together to work on projects together. Specifically, this an opportunity for everyone to see other people in a social setting that does not involve yoga pants. Though if someone want to wear yoga pants to a co-writing session, such is their prerogative.
There are only two rules to a co-writing session:
First Rule of Co-Writing Sessions – You don’t talk during co-writing sessions
Second Rule of Co-Writing Sessions – YOU DON’T TALK DURING CO-WRITING SESSIONS
With a nod to the teenage lunch parties you see at the mall, these sessions should involve everyone sitting around a table not communicating with each other.
Ok, to be fair, you should talk to each other a bit before you get started. Here’s the basic agenda for a co-writing session:
1. Members or attendees (depending if you are doing this thing regularly or just when you need to get out of the house) meet at an agreed on time. This is vitally important, as you don’t want to get started on your writing project, only to have someone “sneak in” a bit late. They never sneak. There’s always disruption. Don’t fool yourselves.
2. Spend 10-15 minutes chatting about what you are writing or working on, and solicit any ideas and feedback that might be useful for your upcoming word sprint. Remember, this is your chance to get outside your head and get the opinion of other writers.
3. Write for 60 minutes straight. Do not stop, do not pass go, do not collect $200. This seems like a long time, and while many pomodoro and scrum systems will tell you to sprint for a shorter time, I tend to find that shorter sessions of writing don’t allow you to really dig into the article in a big way.
4. Take a break! Stand up, walk around. Chat about what you wrote with the others at the table. Get more coffee/tea/bourbon and perhaps a scone. Let your brain reboot from all that thinking for about 10-15 minutes. Good writing involves you stepping away and letting the words marinate a bit before jumping back in.
5. Repeat Steps 3 & 4 as many times as you want, and time allows.
Of course, this whole process will only get you some serious results if you prepare before you go. This involves showing up with the proper tools and knowing what you are going to write about.
* I like to bring noise-canceling headphones and blast instrumental soundtrack music when I’m pushing forward on a project. That way any noises around me (co-working space chatter, coffee shop plate clanging, restaurant sous chefs shouting orders, etc.) gets blocked out and I can focus on just the words.
**Currently sitting in an airport listening to the suite from La Dolce Vita, Performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra (sadly NOT at a co-writing session). You can check out my Writing playlist on Spotify if instrumental soundtracks might help you getting your writing freak on!
* Will you be writing on a laptop? Jotting it all down on a legal pad? Prefer pen or pencil? Best to make sure you have all your tools with you, or else your writing experience will be an unfortunately unpleasant one. Nothing worse than having to write in pencil when all you like is a pen. No matter what Alanis may tell you, it isn’t ironic.
* Do you know what you’re writing? It sounds silly, but unless you have a general idea of your outline or notes on the article, you’ll spend most of your time here researching and sketching. Which are important parts of the writing process, and if you need to force yourself into them with the group dynamic of a co-writing session, I get it. But you’ll get it more if you allow yourself to sit at the table and force out an Ugly First Draft, rather than paralyzing yourself by analyzing the writing to be done.
The great things about these sessions is that they can be impromptu. If you have a solid crew of writers in your area, then you can schedule regular sessions that will eventually turn into masterminds, and before you know it you will all be New York Times best-selling authors. Maybe.
If I’m ever in your ‘hood let me know, I travel frequently, all over the planet. I’d love to meet up to sit at a table and ignore you while we write.
I mean, how can you pass up a chance like that?!