For most of my writing career, like most writers, I wrote alone. I rose early in the morning, made myself my mug of Swiss Miss hot chocolate, and scribbled away on the couch, longhand, for my trademark hour a day. Ten years ago, Snickers the cat joined me as a writing companion, but she is actually more of a purring companion, as her writing productivity seems close to nil.
But a year or so ago, Jeannie Mobley, author of fabulous historical fiction for young readers (Katarina's Wish, Searching for Silverheels) , invited me to a write-in at her house: a group of writers hanging out for the day and the night (we even had the opportunity to sleep over, which I seized), to write together. I got there early in the morning and started writing. I wrote for hours. We broke for a leisurely lunch of wonderful writerly conversation. And then I wrote for more hours. I wrote more in a day than I had ever written before. It was energizing and exhilarating. I was hooked on writing with others.
Now I have one friend with whom I make writing dates of the kind Natalie Goldberg talks about in Writing Down the Bones; Cat and I have written together up at Chautauqua, in the lobby of the historic Boulderado Hotel, and at her cozy house while her little boy was napping. I've been back to Jeannie's for at least one more write-in there. And yesterday I spent a delicious, deliriously happy day with a group of writers, including Jeannie, at the home of writer Jean Reidy, perhaps best known for her delightful picture books, Too Purpley, Too Princessy, Too Pickley.
Here's what I accomplished yesterday. In the car on the (long) way there, I brainstormed the pet aspects of my current work-in-progress, the fifth Franklin School Friends book, which involves a pet show; my passenger in our carpool was a pet expert who has raised a menagerie of animals - could anything be more perfect than that? At Jean's, I made extensive notes for the whole book, finally figuring out Cody's character arc and various complications of the plot. I wrote all of Chapter One. I wrote much of Chapter Two. Go, me!
Why am I able to be so much more productive at these write-ins than I am at home? Why do I, who can usually write only an hour a day (and who prefers to pace myself that way), write on without ceasing? The only reason can be that I'm surrounded by other writers who are pushing themselves beyond their usual limits, too. Creativity is in the air. There is also something about consciously dedicating an entire day in this way, deliberately marking it out as special.
Stimulating as a write-in is, I don't think I could do it every day. One a week maybe, but not more. But oh, the bliss of writing so much, so quickly, with such zest. Plus making new writer friends. Plus eating all the desserts writers always bring to share. Yesterday, at the home of the creator of Too Purpley, nothing was "too" anything. It was all completely, wonderfully right.