Coffeehouse tour, redux: writing in a pack

Today I’m back at Lavvu Coffee, after work with a posse of writing pals (I count seven of us in all) tippytapping away on projects that range from term papers to resumes to vampire stories. (OK, now we think about vampire resumes, which is a whole ‘nother.) It’s raining outside, which is relatively good news, since earlier it was snowing.

I never wrote in company until I first took up National Novel Writing Month in November 2008, as the first act of my sabbatical year. Now that I’m working on my resume, the meaning of that year is dropping into place at five years’ distance. Between November 2008 and October 2009, I studied the way that creative enterprises take shape in both team and individual settings. The write-in brings the arcane business of writing down from Mount Olympus or Delphi to the ordinary landscape of the coffee house or living room or library, where people meet to get work done together. We bout, and then we compare notes and trouble-shoot if that’s requested, and then we jump back in and get some more work done.

Contemporary educational research suggests that the most effective learning happens in study bouts of 30-90 minutes’ duration, coincidentally just the length of timed bouts in our write-ins, with breaks in between for stretching, change of subject, bathroom break, etc. Those micro-bouts (30 minutes or so at a time) get lots of work done in little bites, kind of like those ten-minute walking breaks that add up to the 30 minutes a day of exercise that separates the high-risk sedentary from the healthy life.

Over the last 150 years, we’ve learned a tremendous amount about how human beings best work, rest, and eat (in bursts, punctuated by other activity). That extensive body of knowledge is still ignored, by and large, by our large institutions: our classrooms, workplaces, and hospitals. When we get together at a write-in, and do intense sprints of work, in between encouraging each other or laughing together, we’re touching down on the true secret of life. This is how it works, this is how work flows, this is how life finds its sweetest notes even as we’re complaining about the thing that won’t write itself fast enough.

And now … back to it. The vampire story awaits, and the resume.

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1 Response to Coffeehouse tour, redux: writing in a pack

  1. Niiiice! Both the writing and the enjoyment of the moments between, in commune.

    I talk about rest…it’s the Part 2 I hope I clipped ok:

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