Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, August 12, 2015 7 comments
Not every writer is ready to participate in a critique group. That requires you to have a manuscript at some state of completion that you need help improving through rewrites, revisions and editing.

Photo by Seemann, morguefile.com
For some, just getting a manuscript started is a huge task. That's where a creativity circle can be a great boon. I recently started one after hosting a writing workshop at a church event. Overwhelmingly what participants wanted most was to simply gather with others on a regular basis at a set time and write side by side.

The concept of a "write in" comes from the organizers of NaNoWriMo, who provide infrastructure to connect a group to accountability features of their November program (or DIY "Camp NaNo"). Members arrive, get logged on to the NaNo site with a username and word count, then get busy with the group, adding to that word count. "Word Wars" or writing sprints are encouraged at each site, with participants competing to write the most in the set time.

The new group I'm working with are mostly beginners. Making writing competitive would likely cause many of them to be even more anxious, rather than more driven. So we focus primarily on collegiality rather than competition.

At our first meeting, we spend the bulk of the time getting to know each other, and discussing what kinds of projects we have in progress or would like to work on. The remainder of the time was spent actually writing seated at the same table. Participants loved the experience of sharing the activity and said they were less apt to procrastinate or daydream with other writers present. Hearing the scrape of pens on paper was energizing and a powerful goad to just keep putting words on paper.

While we chose a venue with WiFi and people were encouraged to bring devices, most chose paper and pen. (Another reason sprints seemed a bad idea--typists have an unfair advantage.) I made available a stack of books containing writing warm ups and prompts, which only one person made use of. The others were excited to dig into the dream projects they had discussed.

That opening mingle time was especially valuable for building rapport, idea sharing, and getting folks into a relaxed state (not the fight-or-flight feeling one has when writer's resistance sets in).

Want to start a creativity circle that meets for write ins? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Meet somewhere with WiFi, so people can access documents in the cloud
  • Limit the group size to under 20; spawn new groups as needed
  • Invite people in a range of ages, from teens to seniors, and enjoy both exuberance and wisdom 
  • Encourage folks to bring guests
  • Be very no-pressure about regular attendance; guilt leads to avoidance
  • Affirm everyone wherever they are in their creative journey
  • Include open sharing time in every meeting
  • Encourage every participant to set a personal goal
  • Provide spare tools like paper, pens, and writing prompts

What sorts of accountability and support do you have? How might a creativity circle help you? 


7 comments:

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    1. This has been especially great this summer, when my writing routine is anything but routine. I know at least one evening a week I will get something written. The diversity of ages and genre interests is energizing too.

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  2. This is me. I'm a natural pessimist. I've battled with it for years and still struggle. I've gotten better but still wrestle with the i'm- not - good enough thing. Maybe call it a cloudy day or a shadow moment. Great tips on how to get through it.

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    1. As I said, it's a temperament thing; you make adaptations rather than change it. You will always need tangibles to feel better, and that's okay. They are right there in your own personal history if you take the time to remember.

      The plus side of this temperament is that it isn't satisfied with the surfaces of things, but wants to go deep.

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  3. This is me. I'm a natural pessimist. I've battled with it for years and still struggle. I've gotten better but still wrestle with the i'm- not - good enough thing. Maybe call it a cloudy day or a shadow moment. Great tips on how to get through it.

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    1. I'm curious to know if you're using a mobile device to comment. Maybe that's the cause of this appearing with an earlier post, and the duplication?

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  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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