July 7, 2011

Four Steps to Meeting Monthly to "Just" Write

In May, I participated in WordCount's Blogathon blog challenge hosted by Michelle Rafter. This was my first blog challenge, and I learned so much and met so many wonderful people. One of them was Liz Sheffield who I am honored to have guest posting today about a wonderful idea: Women Write Night. Thanks, Liz!


A little over a year ago I started thinking of ways that I could regularly connect with other writers. I kept meeting women writers – at my day job, at my son’s school – and many of us talked about not having time to write. Like me, I hoped they might be interested in meeting once a month just to write. I say “just” because I wasn’t interested in a critique group, or in reading my work out loud. As the mother of two young sons, what I wanted was a few guaranteed hours each month that I could dedicate to writing.

What came out of those ponderings is Women Write Night, a group I started in June 2010. We met at a local neighborhood community space I’d reserved; the first meeting had about ten people – I was thrilled! Six months after we began meeting, I heard Natalie Goldberg speak and learned that this idea is similar to her idea of the writer’s practice where one doesn’t lift the pen from the page. In her workshops she has timed sessions where everyone sits and…writes, nothing else. Yes! Not only did Women Write Night feel like a productive, helpful evening – I now felt even better because we were doing something a renowned writing instructor recommends.

Women Write Night celebrated its one-year anniversary last month with a party at my house – appetizers, drinks and readings by three of our members. We realized that when we all show up once a month to write, we don’t know what anyone is writing. This party was the perfect chance to hear the amazing words of some of our fellow members.

Below are four steps I took to start Women Write Night. If you’re inspired, I hope you’ll use them to start your own group!

Get focused: know why you want to bring a group together. Without that focus, you may end up with a group that doesn’t provide for you what you hoped. Is this a group for “just” writing or will you be sharing your work and asking for input?

Generate interest: Check in with other local writers you know and see if they’d be interested in joining you each month to write. Once you have three or four other people committed to your idea, you’ll be sure to have at least one other person to write with you each month. (There is nothing worse than planning a gathering and having no one show up.)

Grab a nearby location: Search around for some free locations where you can meet. Libraries often have meeting rooms, maybe there’s a cafĂ© with a room you can reserve if everyone buys a coffee? Or, if you have space in your home, pull up chairs around the dining room table. Be sure to have enough outlets wherever you land – in our group of more than a dozen writers, I am one of two people using pen and paper. Everyone else brings a laptop.

Go virtual: A few months in advance, I send out an Evite to the same list of writers with information about when and where we’ll be meeting. I’m always sure to remind people to invite others who may be interested. The Evite format helps me easily track the number of attendees as well as update the group quickly in the event of a cancellation or change.

Be glad and write: Congratulate yourself for starting a group, write like crazy that first meeting and most of all: be glad! You’ve given yourself and other writers a true gift and it’s going to be great.

If you have questions or start a group, please let me know. I’d love to hear how this process works for other writers.

Liz Sheffield is a freelance writer focused on topics related to parenting, health and wellness. She lives with her husband and two sons in a suburb of Seattle. Liz blogs at Motherlogue.


Lisa Carter said...

Hi Liz,

Thanks for these tips! I'm still a bit intimidated about starting a writing critique group, per se, but this I think I can (and will!) do. I don't have children my full-time freelance translation business is keeping me so busy that I don't have time to spend on my own writing. Getting up early in the morning doesn't work, because with deadlines looming I just have to get to them. But finding a time just for me, and helping give that to others, well, that sounds perfect.

Congrats on your success and thanks for sharing it to inspire us!

Tia Bach said...

Lisa, I'm with you. I think this is a nice middle ground to a critique group. You can build a meeting around a love of writing and then have special events like Liz listed for the occasional critique (or find some people you click with to create a separate group). Thanks for stopping by to see Liz's post!

Anonymous said...

So glad to help with the idea, Lisa. It's been a great way for me to do what you said...scheduling and finding time for creative writing and having others to help keep me accountable. Good luck!

And Tia, thanks so much for allowing me to contribute a guest post. I'm glad that the Blogathon put us in touch!

Kate @ Teaching What Is Good said...

OH.MY.GOODNESS!!! This is AWESOME! Liz, I am SO going to look into doing something like this. I love, love, love it! Thanks so much for this post and for Tia for hosting to you today!!

Anonymous said...

Kate, glad it resonates with you. And would love to hear about what you create.

Michelle Rafter said...

Liz: My kids are older now and I usually get seven hours of uninterrupted work time every week day. But oh, what I would have given for something like a women's write night back when my youngest was little and I was struggling to squeeze some free "me" writing time in with carpools, naps, soccer practices, etc. Good work!

Your monthly sessions sound a lot like the practice of co-working that's taking off around the country; a handful of matchmaking websites have sprung up in the past year to pair individuals or groups like yours with available space that's cheap or even free. If you haven't ever tried them to find space around you, check out OpenDesk, LiquidSpace, LooseCubes, DeskTime or Deskwanted.

Michelle Rafter

Tia Bach said...

Thanks for stopping by, Michelle. Also, thanks for the Blogathon again. I learned so much and met wonderful new friends like Liz. Much obliged.