Write Something! is a social writing session that provides writers a place to work with the communal energy of a café, with or without the café. Whether working on a novel, a blog, a love letter, a curriculum vitae, a poem, an essay, or even a PhD, writing can be too solitary and Write Something! aims to facilitate productive writing sessions with “just enough distraction”.
We first stumbled across the idea of Write Something! during one of our writing dates when, during a break, we discussed how helpful it is to schedule dedicated writing slots in the week, to write in public and to introduce a bit of accountability to the process by telling each other what we hoped to write and then updating on progress during cake and coffee breaks. Unfortunately for our productivity, we both felt really bad taking up a chair in a café for too long and wished we knew of more places (other than our respective apartments) where we could drink coffee and write without feeling like we were in the way. One thing led to another and we soon found ourselves talking to café owners and arts spaces, setting up a Facebook page and Twitter account, and generally starting our own version of a writing group.
Since our individual writing projects at the moment are so different (Muireann is working on a novel as well as a number of short stories while Sarah is writing a history PhD), we wanted to make Write Something! as inclusive as possible. There are no rules about the type of writing and we honestly welcome anyone willing to work quietly, so people have written songs and grocery lists, journal entries and grant applications as well as novels and PhDs. The most common question we get about Write Something is whether people have to write a certain way to participate. The answer, of course, is an emphatic “no!” so we try to maintain a “Written So Far” page on our blog to demonstrate the range of writing activities that can take place during a session.
Write Something! meetings are public gatherings, so anyone and everyone is invited to join us for one of our sessions. At the moment, we have two main homes: Exchange Dublin Collective Arts Centre in Temple Bar, Dublin and the Bald Barista café, Aungier Street. For our Exchange sessions, people are invited to bring along their own snacks, tea and coffee – though we usually have a limited amount of wonderful Nick’s Coffee Company coffee to share – but we do make a point to be good customers when we take over our favorite corner of the Bald Barista. We’re always on the lookout for other places to write (either friendly cafés or less-traditional spaces with public seating and not too much noise) and hope that a fringe benefit of our efforts to organize meetings in different parts of Dublin will be to compile a list of writing-friendly public spaces for other writers looking to explore past the comforts of their familiar spaces.
Regardless of location, most of our sessions start with a short chat, introductions if necessary and coffee gathering before everyone settles down to work. A session typically lasts two hours; some of these have been very loose and unstructured, others have involved timed writing periods interspersed with chatty breaks. We recognize that everyone has their own approach to writing and even our structured events are pretty relaxed and flexible. We really want to help people (including ourselves) get writing done, so we’ll likely continue with a mixture of structured and unstructured sessions in the future.
Ultimately, we hope to draw writers out of their bunkers and into social spaces. Writing may be a solo endeavour but that doesn’t mean it has to be done alone and based on initial responses, a lot of other people agree. Despite starting just as the days got longer, warmer, and brighter, we’ve had pretty steady attendance at all of our sessions. Our fellow coffee-shop-writers seem delighted to have company – and to know that their laptops are welcome – and even some skeptics have been pleasantly surprised at how productive these social writing sessions can be. We hope that as we iron out the kinks and spread the word (and as the days become shorter, darker and possibly more writerly) more writers will come to our sessions and that we’ll discover additional ways to encourage writing.