How to Start a Writing Group
Writing regularly requires commitment — and community
For the last two months, Creators Hub has invited Medium creators like you to come write with us, silently, on a Zoom together, for one hour each week. We provided optional writing prompts, calm music, and minimal intrusion. (My colleague Harris Sockel and I hosted, working on our own writing, answering any questions that came up, and monitoring the chat in case anyone got too rowdy… No one got rowdy.)
We learned that there is a lovely and supportive community of writers here on Medium, and that it really does help to set aside time to write, even if it’s only an hour, even if it’s only once a week. Every week someone would write in the chat: “I can’t believe how much writing I just got done!” Or “I would have never set aside this hour without this meeting!”
I get it. In my own writing practice, I set aside certain times each week for focused work, sometime with a novelist friend who sits with me and yells at me when I reach for my phone. Contrary to popular belief, writing time does not have to happen every day. But, also contrary to popular belief, words don’t write themselves. Having a regular writing hour is a good habit, and coordinating with others makes it more fun (and harder to blow off).
We’re going to evolve how we run writing hours, with more writing hours ahead focused on specific groups of writers. In other words, we won’t be doing these weekly sessions the way we have been — but the good news is that writing hours are easy to run independently. Here’s all you need to do:
Get it on the calendar
We’ve played around with a couple different times and days, but we found that a writing hour works best when it’s predictable. If you’re the one starting the writing hour, choose a day and time that work for you — that way you’re more likely to actually do it regularly. Of course, the best time of day depends on what your work and home lives look like. For people with day jobs, evenings make sense; maybe stay-at-home parents want to coordinate with nap time. What matters is to put it on the calendar and leave it there. I’m always saying this, and I stand by it: Errands, household chores, and all the other random adult life things get done eventually, but writing only gets the time you make for it.
Gather your cohort
We’re less likely to flake on friends than we are on ourselves — if science hasn’t proven that yet, I’m sure it’s close. Invite your writer pals to write with you. If you don’t have any writer pals, ask around on any Listserv or online groups you’re in. I’m willing to bet there are more writers (and would-be writers) than you think. And keep in mind that a writing hour isn’t only for serious writer-with-a-capital-w-writers; this can be time to sketch out ideas, stretch your creative muscles, play on the page, or update your journal. It can work for anyone who wants a little creativity break in their day.
Prepare some prompts
We’ve all been there: sitting in front of an empty page or screen, wondering how on earth we get started and why we ever thought it was a good idea to try to write in the first place. It can be really easy to spend all your set-aside time just spinning your wheels. That’s why we’ve always liked including optional writing prompts in our writing hours. We’ll keep posting prompts here on the Hub monthly, so you’re welcome to use ours. Or you can come up with your own — an image or headline or phrase from the day’s news can be an instant idea-starter.
Prep your tunes
Having some chill music playing makes sitting in silence with others less awkward. It also makes sitting with your own brain less awkward. Many people swear that lo-fi beats are the key to concentration. As Samuel Mehr, a Harvard researcher in the Department of Psychology, puts it, “The kinds of music that work well for concentration and getting work done are the sorts of things that are interesting enough to notice, but not so interesting that they distract you from the thing you’re trying to do.” Type “music for focus” into your preferred music streaming service, and you’re sure to find just the thing. (Hint: If you’re hosting on Zoom, you can share your computer’s sound while you share your screen.)
Zoom (or Google Meets) ahead
At first, I admit, we wondered why there needed to be a video component at all. Do people really want to sit in a Zoom meeting and ignore each other? It turns out the answer is: Yes! Joining a video meeting together creates a shared psychic space — even if most people choose to leave their cameras off. Share a link to the video meeting platform of your choice and invite your fellow writers to join. You can share your screen if you want to provide a Google slide of your prompts. You can also simply share a non-distracting image if that feels right.
Just be sure to all agree on your writing hour’s etiquette: Should everyone stay muted? Chat on or off? Maybe you want to all unmute at the end, invite participants to read aloud some of what they’ve been working on, and offer each other encouragement and feedback. The key is to get on the same page before you begin. Nothing more distracting than an errant unmute mid-writing sesh.
Have you hosted your own writing hour? What’s your experience been like? What the super-secret key to the most productive writing time? Let us know in the responses.
And thank you to everyone who has attended our weekly writing hours. We have loved creating alongside you all. Stay tuned for more future events, workshops, and writing sessions from Creators Hub.
We also wanted to share a small sample of the many great pieces that were written during this writing hours. Check out the links below:
First Post: My WriteHere Experience with Medium
I have a bunch of saved drafts in my Medium account but I never had the courage to hit publish. Who would care? Why am…
Sell Me Normalcy … If You Dare
I was making a valiant attempt today to think in terms of the past two years of pandemic living when Amy Shearing sent…