|Photo by Seemann, morguefile.com|
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?