It felt like the first day of school for me this morning. Dressed in my Pilates clothes, I was off to my Shut up and Write group, then to Pilates, then to meet Farmdoc for coffee at our regular coffee place. This was my routine last year but I’ve had a long break over the summer holidays. Like my youngest granddaughters today was my first day back.
Have you heard of Shut up and Write? It’s a worldwide movement that began in San Francisco and is particularly popular amongst academic writers, but works for any kind of writing. The idea is to meet in a cafe with a group of people and a timer and just write. There’s opportunity for socialising but it’s amazing how productive you can be in the company of others.
We use the Pomodoro Technique, which breaks the time up into blocks. In the breaks between blocks you’re not supposed to talk about what you’re working on (though sometimes we do). Most people find that when they return after the short break they can get to a deeper level in their writing. That certainly happens for me.
We meet at 9.15, order coffee, chat for 15 minutes, write for 25 minutes, break for a five minute chat and then write for another 25 minutes. There’s usually a bit more chat at the end, sometimes another 25-minute writing session for those who don’t need to rush off.
We’ve experimented with different venues – a couple of different cafes and a meeting room in a hotel – but the café where we meet at the moment suits us best. They know our coffee orders and don’t seem to mind us spending an hour or so taking up precious table space. They’ve also grown used to our bursts of chatter, stretches of silence.
The time we met in a hotel, the young male manager set us up in a room to ourselves around a large boardroom table, but then tried to engage us in conversation about what we were doing when we were clearly wanting to concentrate and write in silence. I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d have been so intrusive and condescending (‘We’re all working hard here, aren’t we?’) if we’d been a group of men. Just a thought.
The Pomodoro technique works so well for me that I’ve begun trying to use it at home too. In the five minute breaks I get up, maybe do a few stretches, maybe make a cuppa or get a glass of water, maybe do some chores.
These Monday morning Shut up and Write sessions set me up for the writing week. I use them for all sorts of things. This morning I spent the first block writing this. Sometimes I write in my journal. Mostly I work on my novel, which is what I did in my second block.
Conversations are short, we’re different ages and stages and working on all kinds of projects, but we have in common that writing is important to us. When I spot these people around town I feel connected to them but also to the life of the town. It's the beginning for me of a sense of community here in this new place.