Natalie, a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, strives to inspire and motivate others, no matter what their goals may be, along with herself.
How the Pandemic Changed In-Person Writing Groups
Prior to the pandemic, I attended a writing group almost every day. On a good week, I was able to make it there six times. While each day was led by a different organizer, they were all part of the same organization. We wrote for two and a half hours, then talked about writing for half an hour. It gave me something to look forward to, provided a social outlet, and made sure I spent at least three hours a day writing.
A few months before the pandemic was officially declared, there were disagreements that occurred among organizers in the group. It caused enough turmoil that the main organizer was ousted, and others took over. There weren’t as many meetings, and, because the locations changed based on where the new organizers lived, there weren’t as many people who attended. Some nights I’d go, only to find that no one else came, including the organizer. When a meeting was canceled last minute, I was usually on the subway and only found out when I was writing solo.
The Shift to Online Groups
When the pandemic hit, and things began to be held online, I hoped the group would continue. I much prefer being able to attend in person, but given the situation, that wasn’t an option. Two sections were still held, but since there was no check-in before, it was now just an hour-long discussion about anything writing-related. I tried to attend once, but it didn’t hold my interest, nor did it help me with my writing goals.
My Experience With Shut Up and Write
I decided to search for other writing-related activities on Meetup and found the Shut Up and Write Group. It is an accountability group focused on writing. Everyone in the group checks in during the first 10–15 minutes and says what they will be working on. Then you write for one to two hours. At the end, everyone checks in again and reports on how the writing session went for them.
There are 338 groups in 51 countries, and since they are all remote for now, you can sign up for any of them. I’ve attended ones in California, Hawaii, Indiana, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, Illinois, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, the U.K., and India so far. It’s been an amazing journey!
You Can Find a Group Anytime You Need One
I have met some incredible people, and made some great connections. With so many groups, there is always one to go to, even spur of the moment no matter what time it is.
Sometimes I can’t sleep and am up before the sun. I look online and there’s a group. I typically don’t fully wake up until 4:00–5:00 in the afternoon, so I often write into the night. When I feel my energy flagging but haven’t gotten enough done to call it a night, I look online and there’s a group. With so many time zones, it’s practically impossible not to find a group whatever time you choose.
There Are Many Formats to Choose From
The organizers are all fantastic, and they keep things on track. Some groups have different structures, such as several 20-minute sprints or two 40-minute writing periods with check-ins in between. There are even two that run for 8 hours each, one all day and one all night, with people popping in at different times, putting their goals in the chat, and staying as long as they choose.
If You Need Inspiration, You Can Join a Challenge
I’ve just found out there are also challenges you can join. For example, the one for November 2021 was a five-day challenge called Foreshadowing. Every day, you receive an email with a prompt or daily exercise with daily email reminders to help keep participants on top of their writing.
They encourage participants to share their responses to the daily prompt. Since everyone isn’t comfortable posting their work to social media, there is a special forum specifically for this challenge to provide a safe space where writers can feel free to share their writing and cheer each other on. The forum goes up early in the month so participants can introduce themselves and chat.
The Future of Writing Groups: Online, In-Person, and Hybrid
It can be difficult to stay on track when the pandemic has yanked the rug out from under us. It has changed our world, possibly forever, and we aren’t likely to return to the way it was before.
There seem to be a lot of things that used to take place in person that are now held remotely. Many organizers are saying they will continue to conduct their group’s activities online even after it’s safe to meet in person so people from all over can still attend. Others are saying they will have a hybrid structure, with some meetings in person and some online, or meetings that are simultaneously held in person and online.
New Opportunities and New Ways to Connect With Fellow Writers
I’m interested to see some of the new ways group organizers use to hold their meetings and events. I think it will open up a lot of opportunities that weren’t available before the pandemic unless you lived in a certain location. There are so many events and groups I was never aware of as I never thought to look for them.
I have realized how important it is for me to create a schedule of online activities and events I want to attend and to spend time each morning looking for new opportunities. That way, despite the fact that the virus is still circulating and even people who have been vaccinated and received the booster are contracting it, I will continue to have a connection to my community locally with options to connect to communities elsewhere. I’m excited to continue my journey.
How to Try Shut Up and Write
If you are interested in joining me on a writing journey around the world through Shut Up and Write, their main site is here, or you can just search for them on Meetup.com. Hope to see some familiar faces online soon!
© 2021 Natalie Frank