Making the Time to be Quiet and Write

You write by sitting down
and writing.
Bernard Malamud

Sounds easy enough, but those of us who write know there’s more to it than that.  Endless distractions can pull us away from our writing.  Then a few days, turn into weeks, months, or more of not writing, and our initial excitement turns to dread.

The only way to break that cycle is to follow Mr. Malamud’s advice:

Sit down and write.

If you have a hard time motivating yourself to do that, join The Silent Writer’s Collective for a Silent Write-In, a weekly online writing retreat that helps writers put aside distractions and write.

By committing to a group effort, (think Weight Watchers or NaNoWriMo) many writers find it’s easier to stay motivated and reach goals.  Writing, as we’ve heard ad nauseum, is a solitary endeavor, but sharing our efforts with a group makes it easier, and can help us reach our writing goals.

Our next retreat is tomorrow night, Tuesday, January 17, at 9 PM EST (US), if there’s interest, we’ll also meet at 9 PM PST.  We start on time with a minute or two of hellos, then the “buzzer” sounds and we start writing.  You can work on your own writing project, or use one of the provided writing prompts or exercises to get started.

We meet via Twitter using the hashtag #SilentWriters. If you aren’t on Twitter, we have a group on Facebook. If you don’t have either, just join in on your own at 9, and know you’re not working out there on your own.

For more information, check out the SWC FAQs.

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When it Comes to Writer’s Block, Sleep On It

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For writers it is like a mantra.  In order to write, you must to take the time, sit down, and do it.

BIC HOK TAM, right?

Well, it’s true.  There are no short cuts. Magic formulas are available for purchase, but on the whole, they don’t really work.  Call me a cynic.

Writing takes an enormous amount of time and dedication.  Most writers will tell you that struggle ranks high in the job description, or as sportswriter Red Smith said:

There’s nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.

But what happens when you’ve opened a vein (or 3 or 4) and you’ve still got nothing?  What do you do when even those special prompts saved for desperate moments like this fail you?

My solution?  Take a nap.  Read a book.  Make Rice Krispie treats.  Do anything but write, because your creatively clogged brain is trying to telling you that it needs some time for itself.

When I need to get away from writing, my favorite diversion is napping, and I’m happy to say I’ve got science on my side.

A study by researchers at UCSD found that REM sleep was 40% more effective than the simple passing of time or quiet rest to enhance creativity, in particular for new problems. (1)

During a time when I wasn’t writing anything more than memos at work, my current WIP, a novel now titled For Purple Mountains, came to me in a dream.  It was far from complete, but it intrigued me enough to get me writing again.  Two years later, I’m still at it … happily … most of the time.

Other sleep-induced inspirations include:

  • The tune for Yesterday, which came to Paul McCartney in his sleep.  (If you watch that video, let me know if you agree that Paul is so adorable!)
  • Golfer Jack Nicklaus’ whose career was crumbling.  In a dream he saw himself holding the club differently.  When he tried the new grip later, his game improved dramatically and he was back on top again.
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekkyl and Mr. Hyde, which was plotted in a dream by Robert Louis Stevenson.
  • Mary Shelley, who is said to have been inspired by a dream to create Frankenstein.

Of course, these are big, definitive examples, but how many of us have woken up with a solution to a problem that at one time seemed unsolvable?

Sleep or otherwise walking away from your writing, isn’t always the solution because if you’ve committed any serious time to writing, you know it doesn’t always flow, and sometimes you just have to give it time.  But for those excruciating moments, when you know you’re completely stuck, walk away.  Then, when you’re rested, go back to your writing and open up another vein.

Join The Silent Writers Collective on Tuesdays at 9 PM Eastern and/or 9 PM Pacific (US) for the next Silent Write-In.

For a basic Rice Krispie Treat recipe, try Cooking for Engineers, one of my favorite recipe sites.  It’s quirky, with a touch of OCD and every recipe I’ve used from the site comes out perfectly.

Go Silent every Tuesday at 6 PM EST-US

Our standing meeting is Tuesday at 9-10 pm EST and 9-10 pm PST (US), but participants are encouraged to “Get Silent” whenever the mood strikes, either alone, with others, online, or in person.

We meet via Twitter using the hashtag #SilentWriters. If you aren’t on Twitter, we have a group on Facebook, or just click the email link to the right, and we’ll get you in on the fun.

Our gatherings start with a few minutes of socializing, sharing info, etc, but after that we all agree to shut up and write.  We’re not a critique group, we’re not limited by genre, education, experience, or skill. We just get together to write.

We hope you’ll join in.  We’re a new group, but everyone who’s gone silent with us has found it’s productive hour.  Gotta love that!

Let It Flow

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Next Silent Write-In Tuesday, 4/27

Ray Bradbury said,

We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.

Join us for the next Silent Write-In and tip yourself over to let the beautiful stuff out.

The Silent Writers Collective is meeting again this Tuesday, April 27 at 9 pm EST (6 pm PST).  As always we will meet via Twitter using the hashtag #silentwriters.

The Write-In begins promptly at 9 pm EST, with a few minutes of chat, news, tips, questions, etc. Then the we go silent and commit one hour to writing.  At the end of the hour, participants can continue writing (and are encouraged to do so).

No RSVP necessary, just show up on Twitter, watch for the hashtag and join in.

If you aren’t on Twitter, we have a group on Facebook, or just click the email link to the right, and we’ll be sure to get you in on the fun.

Please spread the word to all your writing friends.

Hope to see you Tuesday!

BIC HOK TAM: We’re Not Talking Thai

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Silent Write-In This Tuesday

Butt in Chair.
Hands On Keyboard.
Typing Away Madly.
That’s the motto of Book-In-A-Week, the website where writers commit to a scheduled writing frenzy for one week each month.  Think NaNoWriMo in hyperdrive.

As a three time winner of the Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers, the site is clearly onto something good.  Namely, that if you’re going to write, it takes time, commitment, and effort.

Along those lines, the next Silent Write-In will be Tuesday, April 20 at 9 pm EST (6 pm PST).  We will meet via Twitter using the hashtag #silentwriters.

The Write-In begins promptly at 9 pm EST, with a few minutes of chat, news, tips, questions, etc. Then the we go silent and commit one hour to writing.  At the end of the hour, participants can continue writing (and are encouraged to do so).

No RSVP necessary, just show up on Twitter, watch for the hashtag and join in.

If you aren’t on Twitter, we have a group on Facebook, or just email me and I’ll get you in on the fun.

Please spread the word to all your writing friends.

Hope to see you Tuesday!

A Great Start and the Next Step

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Our first online Silent Write-In went remarkably well.  We had 11 participants, seven on Twitter, two on Facebook and two via email.

The feedback I heard told me that it was a productive hour, so I’m excited to keep the momentum going.  The next scheduled Write-In is scheduled for this Tuesday, 9 pm EST, but rather than waiting, I thought we might try one this weekend.  What time? Well, I’ll put out it there for a consensus.  Weekend schedules can be crazy, so please let me know via comment what day and time works best for you.

With interested writers from across the U.S., Canada, Australia, the UK, and beyond, timing can be dicey, so I’m open to scheduling Write-Ins whenever they’re needed or wanted.

I will also mention that anyone is welcome to use the #SilentWriters hashtag.  If you have a group of writers you work with, and you want to get together online to write, please feel free to use it.

Thanks again for all the interest, and please spread the word.  We writers need to keep each other motivated!

You Write by Sitting Down and Writing

Jon Winokur, on his ever inspiring website, Advice to Writers uses the words of Bernard Malamud for today’s quote of the day:

You write by sitting down and writing. There’s no particular time or place — you suit yourself, your nature. How one works, assuming he’s disciplined, doesn’t matter.

Bernard Malamud

It’s true. How one works doesn’t matter, as long as one IS working. But that’s the challenge, isn’t it? It’s so easy to get caught up in the endless distractions that pull us away from writing. A few distractions can turn into a few days, or weeks, or (yikes!) even months, of not writing and then our excitement turns to dread.

The only way to break out of that cycle is to follow Mr. Malamud’s advice:

Sit down and write.

If you have a hard time motivating yourself to do that, join The Silent Writer’s Collective for our Silent Write-Ins.  By committing to a group effort, many writers find it’s easier to stay motivated and reach goals. Writing, as we’ve all heard many times, is a solitary endeavor, but sharing our efforts with a group makes it easier, and can help us reach our writing goals.

Next Write-In, Tuesday 4.13.2010

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Our next Silent Write-In will be this Tuesday, April 13 at 9 pm EST (6 pm PST).  We will meet via Twitter using the hashtag #silentwriters.

The Write-In begins promptly at 9 pm EST, with a few minutes of chat, news, tips, questions, etc. Then the we go silent and commit one hour to writing.  At the end of the hour, participants can continue writing (and are encouraged to do so).

No RSVP necessary, just show up on Twitter, watch for the hashtag and join in.

If you aren’t on Twitter, you must be on Facebook, right?? Search Silent Writers Collective on FB and you’ll find us there.

Email me if you have any questions, and hope to see you Tuesday!