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Time(d) to Write


“3, 2, 1, work!”


It’s Tuesday: coworking day. The day when it’s time to meet up (virtually, these days) with three friends and use the Pomodoro technique to get &%$# done.


In case you’re unfamiliar with the Pomodoro technique, it involves working for timed sessions of 25 minutes each which are interspersed with brief (usually 5 minute) breaks. You set a goal for each chunk of work time and, if you’re in our particular coworking group, you report back when the timer goes off to exult over accomplishments (“Achievement unlocked!”) or receive any needed support/commiseration if there were bumps in the road.


The Pomodoro technique is great for days with discrete tasks, especially those that benefit from a time limit—and, in our coworking case, external accountability. My friends and I routinely save work that we might otherwise avoid when working on our own; we use the timer and one another as motivation to check things off our to-do lists. Responding to emails, querying agents and polishing blog posts are just some of the things I’ve accomplished on coworking days.


The bulk of my work is creative writing, though, which doesn’t lend itself to the Pomodoro technique. I can’t bear to stop in the middle of writing once I’ve achieved flow (especially if it took me the greater part of the 25 minutes to get there!). But I still crave that feeling of intensity and community that coworking days bring, which is why I’ve been experimenting with another type of timed writing.


Once or twice a week, I set aside time to attend Brave Space, an online writing session for women+ facilitated by playwright and poet Emma Goldman-Sherman. Before the session, participants receive a sheet of writing prompts, which we are free to use as we wish. When we gather, Emma leads us in a grounding meditation, after which we write for an hour (usually with screens off). When Emma calls time we remerge and spend the final twenty minutes or so sharing what we’ve learned about ourselves and our writing process.


There’s something extremely powerful about being in community with other writers during this time. When I log on, I see their faces; when I close my eyes for the meditation I know they are there; and when I turn off my screen to write I feel the energy of a group of people all producing creative work together, though apart. I write because it’s time to write, not because I’m waiting for the muse to strike. That’s what we’re all there to do—might as well get to work.


It helps to have this bounded time. If I’m feeling blocked, I’ll tell myself I just have to push through until the end of the hour. Usually that’s all it takes to get me going. And if (as often happens) things are going well by the time Emma calls us back together, I end the session with a renewed sense of energy for the work. But no matter what kind of writing day I had—confusing, surprising, enlightening, tedious—I didn’t do it alone. The conversations we have at the end of the session provide support, encouragement and empathy for what can otherwise be an extremely lonesome process.


So, if you are pursuing solitary work, I encourage you to find a group and a timer and experiment with different ways timed writing, done in community, might work for you.


I’d write more, but: ding! Time’s up. :)

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