Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My (Incredibly Awesome) Writing Group

First, before explaining my writing group, I want to give credit where credit is due. The inspiration for how we run things came from a lot of different places, not just one. Part was inspired by a workshop I attended at ALA Annual, "Get Writing! Overcome Procrastination, Remove Roadblocks and Create a Map for Success." Part comes from the book Publish and Flourish by Tara Gray (a book that a previous writing group brought to my attention). Part comes from How to Write a Lot by Paul J. Silvia. And finally, part comes from the weird and wonderful confluence of the three members of the group - me, Michael Perry, and Nicholas Schiller.

Second, if you're having a hard time getting yourself to the keyboard, having to answer to someone else can be a huge help. I've participated in writing groups before, and I recommend it very highly. I'm going to tell you how my current writing group works, but there are lots of other permutations you can explore. I especially recommend looking at the handout available at the "Get Writing!" link above for other suggestions.

Third, here are the rules of our writing group:
  1. We must bring at least 500 words of writing to the group every week. This writing can be almost anything related to our professional lives, such as blog posts, book proposals, or grant narratives. (500 may not seem like a lot, but there have been weeks when it's been almost impossible.)
  2. We set goals from week to week and hold each other responsible. Example of goals: "I'm going to revise the blog post I brought last week;" "I'm going to write an outline of the chapter I have due at the end of next month;" "I'm going to find some outside reviewers to give me feedback."
  3. If we don't bring the 500 words and meet our goals, we suffer the wrath of the disincentives. Yes, you read that correctly: instead of using incentives to encourage writing, we use disincentives to discourage slacking. We have chosen two organizations that we all find abhorrent, and if we mess up we have to donate to one of these places. $5 for a first infraction; $10 for a second; $20 for a third; etc. And yes, we've got rules about one "Get Out of Jail Free" card per year and special dispensations for "acts of God."
Finally, here is how our meetings go:
  1. In case you didn't already know, my writing group doesn't live near each other. Mike is in the Chicago area; Nick is in the Portland, WA area; and I'm in Dover, Delaware. This means we meet via Google Hangouts.
  2. We meet for an hour every week, come hell or high water. (Well, there was that one week we were all so swamped with work that none of us could see straight...)
  3. We stick to this agenda every week (which really does take the whole hour):
  1. Quick check in to see if we’ve met our goals for the last week;
  2. Each person takes turns getting feedback;
    1. 9 minutes for everyone to read & make notes;
    2. 3 minutes each for the other two to give verbal feedback;
  3. Goal setting for the next week and emailing the electronic version of the document to the author.
There's something about this combination that really works for us... so incredibly well that I wanted to share. What do you think? Could this work for you?

1 comment:

  1. Disincentives are a great idea - I almost signed up for a gym membership that worked like that, miss a workout donate some cash, but I knew I'd go broke donating!