I always start January impatient to get back to my desk. This year I feel that more than ever. A two-week visit in Seattle with family was luxurious, yet it derailed my novel-in-progress, the blog I started right before Christmas (what was I thinking?) and my daily journal habit. My world of words shrank to the size of my iPhone screen, as my mother got me completely addicted to WordJong.
Okay, have you played WordJong? Forget the Angry Bird craze. I love this game. Birdsong, rivers and Zen-like music play in the background as you calmly make words and clear lettered tiles from a board. You get endless second chances at this game, undoing words and playing again to beat your scores. It’s a great self-esteem booster too, as cute little animals pop up now and then to tell you what a HUGE success you are, how BRILLIANT your long words are. (Who in real life does that?) It has the feel of a relaxing, non-competitive game, except for the not-so-cute animals that also pop up to taunt you with their high scores. Oh, and my mom. I’m determined to beat my mom’s daily score every day, and I haven’t managed to do it yet, she’s that good. But I digress.
Yes, I’m much more prone to digressions and interruptions and time wasters in January, despite my fierce determination to bolt myself to my desk. And that is why I’ve just made arrangements for the number one strategy these days that kickstarts my writing . I’ve made a library date with a writing buddy.
Not long ago, through an online forum for writers, Backspace (http://www.bksp.org), I met a writer who also lives in my town and who also has a novel coming out in 2012. She’s also a parent of young children and juggling family life with writing. We started getting together to write at a library nearby while our kids were in preschool.
Now when my writing buddy first proposed this idea, my first reaction was almost defensive. Write with someone? But nooooo! I work alone! I have always been a solitude-seeker.Though I’ve had a fantastic, supportive critique group for over ten years now, and have many wonderful writer friends, it never occurred to me to actually sit down and work with any of them.
But then I remembered the happy years when I DID work with other writers. I once belonged to an urban writers cooperative, The Writers Room of Boston. We rented space in a downtown office building, which meant we got to put on actual clothes and go downtown and sit at desks like, well, real working people. And though I never socialized much with anyone there (we were there to work, not chat), I did find comfort in hearing the sounds of people writing all around me. The tapping of keyboards, the sipping of tea, the sighs of frustration and the sighs of satisfaction. It was incredibly motivating, and validating. This is my job, I would think as I sat in my cubicle — even though I was working two other jobs, and even though I’d spent my entire professional life trying to avoid a cubicle.
The birth of my child forced me to end my membership at the Writers Room, as it was too cumbersome and time-consuming to get downtown, and I was too greedy for any spare minute at my desk. I didn’t want to waste precious time commuting. But my writing buddy’s idea to get together at a library suddenly made me ache for the quiet companionship I once found in the Writers Room, working silently among like-minded people, and I ached for the motivational surge I would get from writing in such an environment.
And in fact, as soon as I started meeting my writing buddy at the library, I had a similar sensation. No cubicle this time — we met in a grand periodicals reading room, surrounded by wood-paneled walls and high ceilings. Hunkered down at our big table, between Opera News and Oprah Magazine, we got stuff done. I advanced my novel-in-progress five pages a day; she reworked some essays.
Writing with someone, in person, is a great motivator. It makes me less likely to shirk from my goals, as it’s awkward to call up with some lame excuse for not going. It guarantees I will sit at the table and at least open my computer and my document, and while it’s open, I might as well read over what I’ve written, and while I’m doing that I might as well tweak this, and add that, and suddenly I’m writing again, moving forward, logging words and pages. I wish I could import the WordJong guys to pop up on my screen and say “HUGE SUCCESS!” because that’s what it feels like. These small daily triumphs are in fact huge successes. They add up fast.
I have just enough time to squeeze in one last game of WordJong this morning. A warthog is commanding me to tremble before his mighty score of 91. (My mom got something like 180). I’ll give it one shot, and that’s it. Then time to get back to my new Writers Room, off and running on my work in progress again.