Pyjama Writing – an experiment and an invitation
Update: The article below was originally posted just prior to New Years – the beginning of 2021
– Pyjama Writing has continued every month since then. Writers have found it incredibly useful in getting their work done. (See some testimonials here.) That includes me – I’m a long way into the second draft of my novel thanks to those productive silent hours in writing community every week. And because of that, I’m continuing PJ writing into the fall of 2021.
For at least the first three months of 2021, I’m trying an experiment to make myself accountable to my big writing projects. I’m inviting you to join me. Read on to see how this is going to work.
Often people in my Sanctuaries and workshops say that the only time they actually write is when they’re in a writing group with me and others. These days that’s true for me too, unfortunately. I’ve been incredibly busy over these Covid months. Once I switched my writing workshops, manuscript mentoring and my therapy practice to online, my business hours swelled full to bursting with appointments. My non-business hours are filled with reading for my clients and workshop participants.
The only time I do any writing for myself over these last few months has been in workshops — and I have generated new work that I’m very happy about. But the pieces are short – poems and short flash prose pieces.
Over the pandemic I and many of my writing friends have participated in Emily Stoddard’s marvelous Hummingbird Writing Session’s and Vicki Pinkerton’s inspiring Pot-of-Gold pop-up writing sessions – just 15 minutes of generative writing time – no feedback, just something to kick off pens (or fingers) and GO!
I’m a huge believer in prompted writing in safe space to push us in directions we’d never think of going in if it weren’t for those prompts. I’m a devoted follower of the AWA method and the way that safe and supportive space for newly developed pieces can help us believe in our ability as writers when our inner critic voices are being as mean as they possibly can to persuade us NOT to make ourselves vulnerable on the page. And I know how productive an AWA workshop can be for first draft work — you don’t have to write to the prompts — you can use the space to work on your novel or memoir.
But these days I have a couple of big projects I need to work on: the second draft of my novel, and my Creative Non-Fiction project on the ways in which the modalities of writing, psychotherapy, and mindfulness meditation overlap (and don’t) when undertaking a journey of insight and healing.
Both of these projects need sustained, bum-in-chair time to concentrate – at least an hour at a time, regularly – so that I can hold it all in my head.
The only time I have managed to get some of that work done is in a Mastermind group with Jen Louden that I was a part of for 3 months, Writing Sprints with the Creative Academy for Writers and on focusmate.com. (If the times I’m offering don’t work for you, you could check those out).
So I’ve decided I needed to create that concentrated space for myself and invite others to join me if they too would benefit from an hour, regularly, of uninterrupted concentration on their writing or editing.
There’s a passage in the book Wild Mind where Natalie Goldberg talks about making a date with a friend to write, even though her friend is unsure that she can make it. The passage has stuck with me for years. I looked it up again as I was designing this experiment.
If I was going to get any writing done, I knew I had to make a date to meet someone after I taught.
I called Sawnie. “Will you meet me at twelve-thirty at the Garden?” –
“I’m not sure I can make it,” she said.
“Never mind. Don’t tell me either way. I’ll make believe you are meeting me and if you don’t show up, I won’t expect you but I’ll be there.”
That Monday, I tore away from the lunch crowd because I had to meet Sawnie. As soon as I got there, I began to write. Sawnie stopped by two hours later to say hi.
I said, “Listen, tomorrow I’ll meet you here at one.” I held up my hand. “Don’t tell me whether you’ll be here or not. I’ll pretend you will and I’ll be here.”
~Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind, p. 77
I’m taking a leaf from Natalie’s book. Three times a week I’m inviting you to join me in my zoom room for silent focused time working on your big project.
- Monday evenings, 7:30 p.m. EST
- Wednesday mornings, 7:30 a.m. EST
- Saturday mornings, 7:30 a.m. EST
The reason I’m calling these suggestions “Pyjama Writing” is that they’re all outside of regular business hours. Especially the ones in the morning. You’re welcome to show up in your pyjamas, coffee in hand and get down to work before the day begins.
Because I won’t be doing much facilitation for this, beyond providing the space, the guidelines and the company, there is no charge for these. If you would like to make a donation, it will go to Amherst Writers and Artists social justice programming.
To register for one, more, or all of these sessions, please go to the links on this page. Advance registration is required so that I know who to send the zoom links to.
I’ll see you Monday evenings and/or Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Don’t tell me whether you’ll be there or not! I’ll pretend you will and I’ll be there working. 🙂
(I’m still offering Online Writers’ Sanctuaries several times a month. If you are interested in knowing the dates for Winter/Spring 2021, please go to this link.)
Here is an overview of how the sessions will work:
How to Be Productive in a Pyjama Writing Session
Prepare for your session
- Turn off your phone and put it out of the room or at least out of sight.
- Remove any other sources of interruption: close your door, turn off notifications on your computer, etc.
- Get water/coffee or use the bathroom before the session begins.
- The zoom room will open 15 minutes before the scheduled start – feel free to sign on early and chat. Silent productive time will begin at 7:30 EST.
- Make sure you are visible in the video. Pyjamas are optional but clothing is not—you should be appropriately covered up.
Kick off your session
- Plan what you intend to work on and accomplish in that session.
- Break your commitment down into specific tasks
- Post your plan in the chat area
- Start working at 7:30 when the community goes into silence.
Get to work
- Work in silence on your tasks. Unless there’s a necessary reason, leave your video on. It’s so encouraging to look up and see the community all working together.
- Stay with your posted commitment. If something comes up and your attention needs to go elsewhere, say goodbye. If you’re in the room, please be working on your intended task.
- If you need to take a bio break, post in chat that you’re leaving for a few minutes and you’ll be back.
- Sue will keep the room open for at least one hour. Before you go, post one sentence from what you’ve been working on that you’re happy with.
- Be supportive to others, and celebrate your own productive session!