So Monday morning rolls around, and you sit down to write. You’re up early. Your mind is clear. You have your coffee or your tea or your fruit juice. Your desk is free from distraction. Your office is quiet. And your cursor is silently blinking away.
And at that moment, what happens? Do you start to type? Or do you begin to doodle? Do you perhaps turn and look at the calendar, or the clock, or out of the window—anywhere but at the blank, white screen?
Maybe you switch tabs and have a look at the internet? Check your email. Update your status on Facebook. See how many new Tweets have accumulated since your last logon.
Most writers call this procrastination. I call it the most powerful writing strategy in the toolbox: collaboration.
Instinctively, we know that writing in a void is a dumb exercise. Why else are we so anxious to make contact with another human being the second we sit down to write? But most of us don’t know how to tap into the power of a writing community in ways that are productive instead of distracting. So let’s talk about how to do that.
When? Most of us think of writing as a solitary activity, and that’s partly true. The crafting stage is best done alone (see earlier post—Train for the Race Using the 6 Stages to Writing Success). But brainstorming can be a fun, playful, talkative exercise. And for those of us who are really into our subject matter, an impartial observer can really help select the right details to include or eliminate, or offer feedback on the arrangement.
Experienced writers will testify that the really hard work happens during revision. But before that, we have to gain distance—time and a second opinion are the best ways to do that. So this is another great time to get feedback from someone else.
Who? Just like the 6 stages of the writing process, collaboration works best when we break it up between different people. Anyone can help you brainstorm. Grab a drink and a comfy chair and go for it!
For selection and arrangement, find people who know very little about your topic. They’ll give you the best feedback about whether you’ve started from the beginning, included everything they needed to know without making them feel stupid, and done it in a clear, logical order.
But for revision, you should look for someone familiar with your work, your style, and your tone. Ideally, this person should be a serious, hard core writer or editor, someone who’s willing to put the same time and effort into your draft as you.
Where? You’ve probably already got some of the contacts you need through your online social media—email, Facebook, and Twitter. Now start branching out and finding more people like you, people who are writing about the same things you’re writing about. Talk about the work you’re doing, and ask about the work others are doing.
Local colleges and libraries generally have book clubs and writing groups that meet outside of the class structure. Check their calendars to see if they have a writer in residence or a scheduled reading. Even if you’re not writing creatively, attending one of these events is a great way to make contacts locally.
How? You’d be shocked how many people are willing to read your work, even flattered to be asked, and intrigued to see what you’re working on. So ask. And it never hurts to bribe. Offer to buy them a cup of coffee, take them out to breakfast, or just get them outside. Parks are fabulous places to collaborate.
And if you’re meeting online, be sure to send a little thank you. $5 in an Amazon gift card or Starbucks goes a long way to build good will. Finally, reciprocate. Offer to trade manuscripts. Set up bi-weekly or monthly dates, and hold one another accountable.
Build collaborative writing relationships. Talk about your work. Get feedback. And you’ll soon find yourself becoming a more productive, articulate writer!
Questions, comments? Leave feedback here. Or send me a tweet: @CorpWritingPro.