March 8, 2022 § 25 Comments
By Morgan Baker
When I went to the florist to get some holiday cheer for my house—white hydrangeas and some greenery—I was on the clock. I had a standing appointment at 12:30 I couldn’t miss. Several times a week, I log on to Zoom in Boston and write with friends I’ve made: from Dubai and Amsterdam, British Columbia and Seattle.
I’ve always been envious of those writers who belong to supportive writers’ groups or write in coffee shops with earbuds in, listening to their music while people chat, drink and make noise around them.
Neither of those two scenarios work for me. First, how do you find like-minded people who have the same ideas about how a writing group should work? And second, how can anyone work among so many distractions in a public place?
I have tried a couple of in-person groups, but they’ve disintegrated after a few months. The writers were on different trajectories, or their needs didn’t mesh. I’ve never been a coffeeshop writer, although it sounds romantic.
I do have a few people with whom I can share my work. Although writers are generally warned not to show family members work-in-progress, I rely on my husband, a former journalist turned communications guy, and one friend to read my words and tell me the straight-up honest truth. I’m not always thrilled to hear what they have to say, but I always appreciate their wisdom.
For the most part, however, I’ve always written alone.
But when the pandemic hit, virtual became our normal. When the world was shutting down, my writing world opened up. I took part in a fair number of courses and retreats, met writers from all over, and became part of a wider writing community.
We don’t share our work per se on these co-writing Zooms, but we share our time together and support one another in our goals. We are accountable to one another—thus my rush home with an armful of hydrangeas. At the beginning of each session, we announce where we’re coming in from and what we plan to do for the next hour or hour and half. At the end of each session we regroup and share what we’ve accomplished. Through our muted windows, we give thumbs up or clap silently when we hear how others are progressing. This support is invaluable. I am spurred on to write more, to push myself to work harder.
Co-writing Zooms occur almost every day. Three times a week, I sign on with a group at 7am. The facilitator Zooms in from Toronto and the writers are all on East Coast time. For other sessions, later in the day, facilitators Zoom in from Dubai, Vancouver, and the Bay Area. While some writers are starting their day, some are finishing lunch and some will soon go to bed.
As we continue to work together, I learn little bits about their lives—their work, their families. Sometimes dogs even appear on screen while writers work on essays, school assignments, novels or memoirs. We celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and commiserate about the challenges.
I have written more since starting with the co-writing community, than when I wrote alone. Knowing someone is there waiting for me, helps. Knowing other people are working on similar projects helps. It reminds me of my experience working out. Hand me a workout regime, I will nod my head, agree I should do it, and then delete the plan from my phone. But when I have to be on Zoom with my personal trainer and other work-out buddies, I show up at 6AM.
Writing can be a lonely activity. It’s often hard to sit still for long periods of time as I ruminate on my life. I get up frequently for more coffee or shortbread cookies. Co-writing keeps my butt in my chair, and I am reassured knowing there are friends out there rooting for me as I cheer for them.
I sign on as often as I can, even when I don’t know what I want to work on. When I’m in session at the college where I teach, I’m curtailed by the hours I’m in the classroom, so during any breaks I have, I gorge myself on co-writing meetings.
I miss the sessions—and the friends—when life takes me away, but for now, we are all here to write. Together.
Morgan Baker has written for The Boston Globe Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, The Bark, The Bucket, Talking Writing, Cognoscenti, Motherwell, and several times for the Brevity Blog. She teaches at Emerson College and runs workshops privately (see bymorganbaker.com). She lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband and two dogs, from where she signs on to co-write as often as possible.
I too find Writing Zooms to be a life-saver. I run one for children’s writers twice a week and we’ve gotten so much done by banding together for a few minutes, then writing the rest of the hour behind our darkened screens.
Yay for children’s writers. I love your work. Thanks for reading.
Zoom Co writing sounds a great idea and experience Morgan, thank you for sharing.
Thank you for reading Margaret.
You’re welcome Morgan
Thank you for spurring me on. I’ve been intending to participate in co-writing Zooms for ages. Great piece.
Thanks Heidi – Yes. Do join. I was amazed at how productive I was and how supported I felt.
Love this and heartily endorse!! I was lucky enough to fall into a morning zoom group a few months into the pandemic. I’ve seen available slots offered by various writing centers–the Loft in Minneapolis and I think Gotham in NYC. I’ve had a couple of periods over the past year and a half when I’ve had to miss my morning Zoom–and I’ve really hated missing out. So glad you wrote this piece, Morgan. I think the benefits of writing on Zoom are surprising, and people need to give it a chance so they can feel those for themselves.
Hi – Thanks for reading. I didn’t know how I’d feel at first, but I’m hooked and hate missing them. I protect that time as best I can. Keep writing and zooming
I love cowriting! It’s my sacred time, and like you, I plan around it.
Such a great thing to organize our lives around!
I’ve had a similar experience. As an Alaskan, I’ve been using Zoom and other video messaging apps for some time, but I can connect with many more people now, especially writers. Although the pandemic has been devastating in many ways, I am grateful for this silver lining.
Yes. I agree. The pandemic has been awful. But the zooms kept me from feeling so isolated and now I have a new community. I’m glad you have your community too.
Thank you, Morgan, for a complete synopsis of past writing worlds compared to today. I have been in a successful writing group for 24 yrs, which only include, now, the beginning members. Those of us who worked and stuck through it and to it got the point of wanting to write. We still do on Zoom, and have a collaborative memoir of our experiences, prompts, and stories of a writing group, now at press.
Your piece is an inspiration.
Your writing group sounds great. The memoir also sounds intriguing and wonderful. Thanks for reading.
Great idea for supporting each other. I haven’t looked for a group. Not sure what kind of group to seek out.
My writing is episodic. I write when I encounter a crossroads in my journey of learning to live with an acquired hidden disability.
My writing is part of living a repurposed life.
Thank you for reading. Your writing sounds cathartic.
Great piece. I sometimes join the London Writers Salon, and I know exactly of what you speak.
Thanks Sandra – you’re the second person who has referenced the London Salon. Interesting. Thanks for reading.
Morgan, you are so right! I love co-working sessions. I get so much work done in them (in one right now). I haven’t seen you for awhile so it’s nice to know you’ve found groups that work for your time zone. I hope we’ll Zoom into each other soon.
Hi! Thanks for reading. I haven’t been in the m-th group because of my teaching schedule. I do Fridays and some early morning ones. I miss the M-Th a lot. Glad you’re still there. I hope the move went well.
‘I’m not always thrilled to hear what they have to say, but I always appreciate their wisdom.’ This made me laugh. That’s how I feel when I show work to my (well-read) partner.
Yes, the readers are necessary and helpful, but sometimes I have to work really hard to keep my cool. Thanks for reading.
Great article! Can you recommend some co-writing zooms to look into? Thanks.
Hi – are you on Facebook. Look for Finishing Your Book for Real – there are some co-writing links there you might enjoy. If you’re not on Facebook, email me and I can send you some – mmorganbaker89@gmail,com.