Step Away from the Vacuum

“It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.” — Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Do you have days when you can’t make yourself sit in your chair to write? I sure do. The solitude of writing at home can be productive, but some days, household chores and an endless to-do list distract me.

Shortly after a cross-country move last December, I connected with Inspire Christian Writers and met founder Beth Thompson through email. She invited me to her home for Friday morning writing sessions. Different than a critique group, this weekly gathering offered a sanctuary for writing with others.

Friday morning writing is now one of my most important calendar items. About the time each week, Dee Aspin says, “I like having writing time set aside on my calendar. It brings a sense of ‘going to work.’ By leaving my house to write, I see writing as work rather than a hobby.”

Knowing I have the writing appointment forces me to prepare ahead of time. I put my notebook and favorite pen on the kitchen counter Thursday evenings, but even before that, there’s work I must do. What resource materials will I need? Will I need my Bible? My iPad?

More important than the prep work is the knowledge that even if I fail to sit down to write earlier in the week, I will get words on paper Friday morning. Writer Joanne Butterfield says, “During the week, whether I have written as much as I could have, I know that I can spend the two hours doing what I might have avoided all week: writing.”

Butterfield and I are both new to the area and have enjoyed getting to know other writers through the writing group. Plus, working together on our own projects creates a companionable quiet time that fuels and energizes us.

The silence may be unsettling at first. Chrissy Drzewiecki says, “We all went about our business of writing. No talking. Just writing. This was hard for me at first. I like to talk about writing. But soon I realized what an awesome time it was just to write.”

Want to form your own writing group? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Reach out to writing friends in your community to form a group. Not sure where to look? Facebook, the Inspire site, and Twitter are all great resources for finding your local writing community. Sacramento Meet Up also has writing groups. You may also put up flyers at coffee shops.
  • Pick a time, day, and location to meet. My group meets Friday morning, usually at one of the member’s homes. If you don’t feel comfortable hosting each other at home, try a coffee shop or library where you can write together without too many outside distractions.
  • Decide whether you will have food. Will there be coffee? Snacks? A meal? Who will provide these? Our hostess usually prepares coffee, tea, and light snacks to get us going. After two hours of writing, we share a light lunch together.
  • Build in time for socializing. Decide whether to chat first and then write or catch up after your writing session. Dedicating a time to talk with one another will make the quiet time easier to maintain. My group usually opens with prayer, gets straight to writing, and then talks nonstop during lunch.
  • Enforce expectations, but also be flexible. If you have trouble focusing and staying quiet, be prepared with a gentle reminder (to yourself or others). Aspin says, “If we have too much fun talking, it distracts from the writing time. Everyone in the group has to be intentional, or it becomes something other than what it is intended for.”

Also decide whether you will share any of what you’ve written for feedback. I’m in a separate critique group, and having the two unique groups removes any anxiety I might otherwise feel on my writing days. Not that your critique group shouldn’t feel safe, but a writing-only group can be the safest of places to get words on paper or screen without worrying about what readers may think.

Nothing feels better after battling a vacuum of solitary days or the lure of the vacuum cleaner and a dirty carpet than to sit down with friends and accomplish God-ordained work. The promise is true in writing groups, too: “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20, NASB).

Do you have tips for a writing group or other ideas for escaping the vacuum? Please share them in the comments below.

About Hope Squires 3 Articles

Hope Squires is a Southern transplant temporarily living in Northern California. You may recognize her name from those fun Inspire membership renewal reminders you receive. Learn more about Hope and her writing at theflourishingtree.com.

4 Comments

  1. What a great post. Thanks for sharing your experience with quiet time in the writer’s group. Probably something we all should do, except I havent’ learned to use a laptop computer, so I’m glued to my desk.

    • Elaine — I hear what you’re saying about being glued to your desk. I don’t use a laptop much either, and so I bring a notebook and a pen for writing group days. The added bonus is that by using pen and paper, I’m not distracted by Facebook or Twitter or the other bazillion ways I can surf the Web.

  2. We’ll always find valid excuses to keep us from writing. If we truly want to write, we’ll carve out the time and make it a priority. I’ve thought of hosting a day-long retreat in my home for a few writers. Lots of space to write and contemplate. Plus, a monthly or bi-monthly writing retreat might be the ticket for people who work during the week.

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