In the wake of announcing that I have signed a new book agreement deal for Gardening Like a Ninja: An Edible Landscaping Guide coming out February 2016, I’ve decided to re-engage with the writing sprint group I was doing on Skype a year or two ago. I got a lot of questions about how it works and a few queries about why I recommend them so strongly.
Stick with me as I walk you through the benefits of a writing group in general and sprinting in particular, as well as some tips and tricks for how to make it work. And by make it work I mean not drive you insane on Skype.
Why Join a Writing Sprint Group
The lonely factor – I think we all know what a lonely endeavor writing can be. You sit to write and it’s so easy to let your mind wander and to waste time. To check in. To check out. And before you know it 45 minutes have passed and you’ve touched base with Aunt Margie on Facebook, leveled up on Candy Crush and renamed some files on your desktop. But words? They are not written.
For me the loneliness aspect is probably the most difficult thing about writing. I am a very social person, as anyone who’s met me at a conference or even online can attest. I love to hear people’s stories. I think with writing it’s a way to give those stories voices and permanence beyond a fleeting passing in the hallway. It’s also a way for me to reach beyond my rural, land-locked home where I’m surrounded by trees and peace and children and reach out to another human. To a fellow kindred spirit – a friend I always wanted and never knew.
Joining a writing group means you are with your people. You aren’t the weird one rejoicing over a new pack of pencils. Someone else feels your pain as you sit down to go through the edits of your rough draft, or rejoices with you when your book manuscript is finally complete.
Discipline – Writing takes discipline and sometimes discipline is hard to muster up by yourself. It’s practically a four-letter word. Except it’s bigger. There are a lot of people telling you that writing takes discipline but very few people telling you how to develop discipline. Mostly because it’s so insanely simple that no one could sell it. Ready?
To become a disciplined writer you need to write. Every day. But again, for some people that actually IS hard still. So joining a writing group can be helpful because people will place expectations on you. You will feel like you should join. It’s leveraging peer pressure to work in your favor.
Accountability – This is my favorite piece. The fact that these sprints are timed, short bursts means I stop worrying about the other details that tend to slow me down and simple put all my energy into the sprint. Into the writing. In 45 or 50 minutes I will usually produce between 300-800 words depending on what I’m writing and what kind of formatting is involved, and so on. Knowing that others are also writing and pouring their energy into producing their own words is very motivating.
And then the time’s up. The accountability that comes from reporting back with your word count is very powerful. It’s a small accountability gesture but a semi-public one and if you’re like me that can make a big difference.
What Exactly is a Writing Sprint and How Does it Work?
So a writing sprint is similar to a running sprint except less sweaty. A short burst of fast and focused effort that is not sustained for a prolonged period of time. So with a writing sprint a timer is set for 40 or 50 minutes and then you write. Until the timer dings and then you’re done. TADA! You wrote!
The awesome part of doing a writing sprint with a group is that you are able to then report in with your word count and it’s so exciting when some one posts, “Time!” and everyone reports back in with their word counts. “400 words.” “582!” “I edited 10 pages of my second draft!” So exciting! Then you take a break until the turn of the hour and if you’re able to continue working, you can go again.
The nice thing about planning a 45 minute or 50 minute sprint is that you are then also planning your breaks as well. You know how everyone says you should get up and stretch and drink a glass of water every hour or so, but no one really does? Well now you do. See how disciplined and awesome you are?
How Do I Join the Writing Sprints?
OK so this is seriously easy. Get on Skype. Find me, ang.england, and add me to your contacts. (Be sure you tell me that you want to participate in a Writing Sprint Group so I don’t think you’re a crazy stalker trying to sell me a lottery ticket from a dead prince in Nigeria.) I will add you to the group chat for Writing Sprints. The rules are simple – start a sprint when you need to write and whoever can join you, will join you.
If you log in and sprint is already going don’t interrupt, just either join in on the remaining time or wait until the next round starts. No video chat is required – we just use the chat feature and type in the words. So don’t worry about having to dress up or do anything other than grabbing your pencil or computer and getting ready.
Is There an Easy Way to Manage Skype with the Writing Sprint Group?
Name the Group – Absolutely. First things first, you will want to name the group and make sure it’s added into your contacts list. So my group will appear in the recent tabs and I can easily find the chat to start up a sprint whenever I’m ready.
I usually stay on invisible (the green outline option) or the yellow option so I don’t get a ton of requests or chats going on. If I have set my OWN timer I will actually go to red and be completely muted out, but if someone else is the time keeper this time I will just create Skype notifications.
Notifications During Sprints – Skype notifications will alert you to a word in a group chat, either blinking actively or popping the window back into view. For the Sprinting Group for Writers group I have set “Gone” “Sprint” and “Time!” as the primary alert words. This increases the chance of me seeing a sprint starting (“Who wants to sprint? Are you ready to go? K – Gone!”) and also make sure I notice when a sprint is over as the time keeper calls “Time!”. After all, I don’t want to miss posting in with my word count! 🙂
You can set these Notifications when you are the group by going to Conversation, Notifications, and entering your preferred options. You can have it notify you (top option) anytime there’s conversation in the group. Or what I’ve done is select the bottom option and create the notifications around specific words.
What Are You Waiting For? Write More Now!
So what are you waiting for? Pop over to Skype and shoot me a message at ang.england and I will add you to the group. I’m going to be sprinting a lot this summer and I could really use the support and company. If you know any other writers please feel free to invite them also.