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Writing together makes us better

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Anyone else a little busy right now? The only way I’ve been getting any writing done lately is to meet my friend Bria Quinlan at the library three days a week to write for several hours. Since we started, I’ve averaged more words per week than I have all year (even during NaNoWriMo).

The concept is simple, but the result has been epic. Writing at home always sounds great, and I can do it, but the minute I get stuck in a scene, it’s far too easy to get distracted by food, laundry, a dirty counter, my dog, my bed, business stuff, errands, email… At the library, I know I’m there for one reason only: to write. No excuses. And there are very few distractions (aside from the books on every wall).

We had to lay some ground rules—based heavily on the “Writers Camp” formed by Roxanne St. Claire, Kristen Painter, Leigh Duncan, and Elle Saint James—to make sure we don’t just chat the whole time. For example, we get 15 minutes at the start of the day to catch up with each other. We set a goal for the morning (e.g. word count, pages revised), and no one gets lunch until we both reach our goals. How’s that for motivation?

We take 45 minutes for lunch during which we can eat, talk, check social media or email, and then get back to work. Appointments are scheduled for other days of the week. This is Work Time. Writing is our job, and this is our version of an office with a boss.

In the afternoon, we each try to meet our goal for the day before we wrap it up. Even if I miss my overall mark, I’ve been so much more productive that I have no complaints.

Not only am I getting in more words, but Storytime (as Bria dubbed it) is freeing me up to spend more time on the business tasks I’ve been putting off, without feeling guilty for not writing (as much) on those days.

I realize not everyone can do this during the day. I’m lucky to work from home full time. But the concept can be modified. Maybe it’s two hours at a coffee shop on Saturday and Sunday morning. Or a couple hours at the library several evenings a week. Or take your laptop to work and find a spot to write during your lunch hour (the conference room?).

Honestly, though, this works best with a partner. Why? Accountability is a big part of it. (Having someone to watch your computer on a bathroom break is an added bonus.) If I’m not meeting Bria, it’s easy to skip writing to tackle all of the other things on my to-do list. If I haven’t reached my goal by noon, I can’t just give in, I have to keep writing until I make my morning word count. It often comes easier than I expect when I force myself through the block.

The key—at least for me—is to get away from the distractions and to set up an unassailable period of time where my brain knows that writing is the only option. Some people can do this at home. (I envy you!) After almost a year of fighting with myself, I’ve learned that I need an alternative.

Do you struggle with distractions when you want to be writing (or working on something else important to you)? Have you found a way to deal with it? Please share!