Ok, it’s not actually this dark at 8am in Ottawa, but in the winter on a cloudy day, sometimes it feels like it.

Writeshop Wednesdays Ottawa

If you want to skip the meandering thoughts on how Writeshop Wednesdays was conceived and launched, go straight to “Writing at Writeshop.”


When I spent last June at a writing workshop in New York City, I was nervous. Writing is deeply personal, and I felt vulnerable offering my writing up to the critique of strangers.

I know creative writing workshops can be terrible — Girls has a brutal scene where a character is torn apart at an esteemed writing workshop — but mine was great. I received thoughtful feedback that made my writing stronger.

I realized the idea of a solitary writer, toiling away from the distractions of the world, is incomplete. Writing is a social activity.

At the very least, there is an interaction between the writer and the reader. Often, there is also an editor or a boss who makes suggestions and approves the writing. If you’re lucky, thoughtful peers provide comments and feedback along the way.

After the workshop, I returned to Ottawa. I missed having a community of peers giving feedback on my writing. When I talked to people, whether they worked for charities or businesses or themselves, many said wistfully, “I don’t spend enough time writing.”

Around the same time, I came across Kyle’s post on Writeshop Wednesdays, which he started last year in Toronto. I thought: this is awesome. It helped people carve out dedicated writing time, while providing the opportunity to get feedback. I wanted this in Ottawa.

When I was visiting Toronto in November, Kyle and I got together on College Street and talked #writeshopweds. I took careful notes like the nerd I am.

Then in January, #writeshopweds made its way north, straddling the line between Ontario and Quebec in Ottawa’s ByWard Market.


Writing at Writeshop

Writeshop is simple. Kyle and Behrouz developed the following format in Toronto, which we’ve adopted in Ottawa. (The description below heavily leans on the description Kyle wrote in his Medium post — thanks Kyle.) Run with it in your city, and share how it goes!

One hour, in the morning
If you’ve organized an evening event, you know how busy evenings are. Sports, dinners, meet-ups, openings, shows and many other things make it hard to find a time that works for anyone. With lunch meetings and different lunch hours, lunch is similarly difficult to coordinate. The mornings though — that’s a lot easier.

Chit-chat time
You won’t start on time. Most important, you need time to get a coffee, but there are also introductions to new people and chatting with old friends. Depending on the size of the group, allow 10–15 minutes for this settling time.

Idea-sharing
Talk out your idea with a partner or two. It’s amazing how ideas can be refined and fleshed out when they are said aloud. Let your partner build off of it, take it in a different direction, cut the idea up or sit quietly in amazement of how perfectly formed in your head it is. Ideally each person shares for 5 minutes or so.

Write!
At least 30 minutes of productive writing time, whether you’re working on a blog post, copy for your website, a novella, a poem, or a letter to your mom — whatever. You’ll be amazed at how much writing you get done in half an hour of concentrated time.

I’ve written posts for my blog, Lee fleshed out the idea for and then launched #CX6 for his organization, and we’ve discussed having themed weeks focussing on a particular topic or type of writing, like writing essays for the Globe and Mail’s Facts and Arguments column.

Share
Sit down with your partner or someone new and share what you’ve written. Whether it’s an outline, a finished piece or just a draft, get some reactions and feedback. It’s the incentive you need to move forward.

Ship
As Seth Godin says, you’ve got to ship. Publish, hit send, or share your piece before the following Wednesday. Share it with us.

Repeat
Rinse, lather, repeat. See you next Wednesday.

We’d love to see you on Wednesday. Join us.

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