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19: What is a virtual writing room?

In this week’s episode, J Thorn and Crys Cain discuss one of the most used features of The Author Success Mastermind, the virtual writing room. What is it? How do you use it? And how might you create your own?

Transcript

Crys: Welcome to the TASM podcast. I’m Crys Cain with my cohost, J Thorn. 

J: Hey, Crys, how you doing? 

Crys: I’m all right. I have done almost a full week now of my getting up at four o’clock in the morning to work. And this morning I did get up at four. It was the first morning that I didn’t wake up before my alarm.

And I was so tired. I let myself slack and I felt miserable all day because I didn’t get that first early morning jolt of like productivity. And I was like, oh, okay. This is something that is actually working. The days where I’ve gotten up and I’ve done the work, I feel so good about my whole day, and today I didn’t.

So I know it’s working, therefore I just need to push through the doldrums. 

J: What time are you going to bed? 

Crys: No later than nine. 

J: Okay. Okay. 

Crys: And that’s like asleep, like we’re in bed before that, but… 

J: Yeah. Nice. You’re going to be able to just make that your new routine?

Crys: Okay. I think so, because it’s actually not that far off from my body’s natural rhythm.

It’s only when I let things keep me up. Normally just reading that I don’t wake up between three and four. And I really like that early hour of the day before anything can happen to screw it up. Just getting the good stuff 

J: Yeah, that’s kinda rhythm I’m in. I’m usually asleep by maybe 9:30 or 10:00 and I’m usually up around 4:30 or 5:00. I’ve been in that rhythm for a few years now. I don’t need ever need an alarm clock. I just I start to fall asleep at that time and I wake up at that time. So. It works. 

Crys:  Indeed. How’s your week been? 

J: It’s been a little crazy. We were planning on possibly selling our house in three years when my daughter graduated from high school, and then we decided maybe in the fall and now we’re deciding like maybe the end of the month. 

Crys: Yeah! So if you guys have been cleaning and sorting and all of that stuff, like crazy, or what’s the…? 

J: It’s nuts. We’ve been living in this house for 15 years and it’s where both of our kids pretty much grew up, so we have a lot of crap to go through. And and we don’t have a lot of time to do it. 

So what we’re trying to do is we’re going to store a bunch of stuff in my mom’s basement. Not necessarily because we want to keep it, but just because we can’t deal with it right now. 

This is going to be donated. This is going to my mom’s. This is coming with us. This is getting thrown out. So it’s multiple layers of of going through the house. 

It’s been a challenge because, as you know, when you’re self-employed you don’t get any paid time off. So I’m trying to do my client work and get my words in and at the same time, trying to sell a house.

So yeah. There’s that.

Crys: I’m going through a similar process, but I literally only have two years and the only furniture I own is the desk and chair that I am sitting in. So it’s way less intense and I’m still freaking out about it.

J: Yeah. I just tell myself we’ll get there. And the fun part is that the realtor wants to list our house when we’re in Boston. So it’s… yeah. So I’m like, oh yeah, by the way, I’ve got an author event to plan for and then do as soon as we finish here. In a few weeks though, it’ll hopefully be a lot better.

Crys: I feel like a lot of people are going through that extra chaos right now. It’s this whiplash response from last year: okay, now we can do things. So we’re going to do everything all at once. 

J: Yeah. I can see that for sure. And especially anything around the housing market, like if you’re buying or selling, it’s a crazy time right now.

Crys: Can’t even imagine. 

Well, we have some comments. I missed the comments last week. We had some really great responses on the burnout episode, but we’re going to go over them this week. 

Our friend JP said he definitely thinks he hit a wall slash burnout when it comes to the day job, however, he’s in the right position in his career to bunker down and hold out. On the plus side, the projects, writing and podcasts, et cetera, have been the outlet that alleviates the pressure of burnout, more so than contributors to the burnout. 

J: Nice. 

Crys: Kim says she experienced burnout with aikido and it got to the point where all the teaching and business stuff took over and made it so she no longer enjoyed training. Her way out of that was to extricate herself slowly in bits and pieces. First one job than another, that sort of thing. She was too heavily involved to just quit and couldn’t leave them in the lurch and then COVID came and just kind of stopped everything. So nice little break there. 

J: Yeah, for sure. 

Crys: And Kathy went from burnt out high school dropout stoner to burnt out ER nurse to burnt out freelancer with writing and editing ho.

And she just in the last year quit her freelance stuff and has been writing for herself full-time and I think I have been able to see a lot of energy in her since then. 

J: Yeah, for sure. I would agree with that.

Crys: And Don said something that I a hundred percent agree with: in America, it’s cool to work your ass off and it shouldn’t be. 

Absolutely.

The cult of productivity is something we preach against here, for sure. 

On decision fatigue Kim said after listening to the episode, she actually decided not to pursue a Vella project because she knows her plate is already full.

J: Good decision. 

Crys: Excellent. 

This week we’ve had quite a few mindset-y episodes for a bit.

That’s not really a word, but anyways. We’re going to jump into one that’s particular to our group, but I’ve been in several of these, but: what the heck is a virtual writing room? 

J: What is a virtual writing room, Crys? 

Crys:  The way I like to do it is it’s often a Zoom room, though any kind of video conferencing tool, though not even video conferencing tool, I can cover some of those… 

It’s any kind of virtual room where you can participate with other people, but most of your attention is on your writing. However, you are participating together. So that there’s that social expectation that you are doing what you’re supposed to be doing and getting those words on the paper. 

For people who are having a hard time imagining this, if you’ve done nano one of the common events for  a National Novel Writing Month local group is to have writings where everybody shows up to a restaurant or something and they sit there and they write. So you’re ignoring each other most of the time, writing together.

And this is the virtual version of that. 

J: Correct. Yes, it is. How often do you do join a virtual writing room? 

Crys: With TASM, at least twice a week. I set specific times that I’m leading sprints, which is one way to do a writing room, and we can get into what that looks like. But I, most of the time, I would prefer to do most of my writing in a writing room.

It reminds me of what I’m supposed to doing, of what my focus is. And it’s what is… body doubling is the term that’s used, particularly in ADHD circles. It’s a tool that’s really useful for, especially for neurodivergent people, ADHD people, but can be useful for just about anyone who has trouble keeping their brain on what they’re supposed to be doing.

It’s just that social expectation that you’re doing something that you’re supposed to do. You can come to a writing room and not actually write and say, Hey, I’m going to edit. I’m going to do this other thing on my business, but I’m saying that I’m doing this thing. And I know that other people are expecting me to do it.

I don’t report to them, but I know they’re expecting me to do it. 

J: Is this a good time for me to make a confession? 

Crys: Yes, sir. 

J: You probably know what I’m going to confess, right? 

Crys: Uh huh. 

J: Go ahead. 

Crys: You’ve never participated in a writing room? 

J: Close. I have, and they don’t work for me at all. I’m sure members of our community have probably noticed that, yeah, J’s never been in here.  

I tried it a couple of times and I just get distracted.  I think it’s the same reason why I can’t write in a coffee shop. I can’t write with music. I can’t write with other people around. I sometimes I struggle to write when my kids are home, even if they’re not in the same room.

I’m one of those writers who I need almost like complete silence, like windows blacked out. And it’s unfortunate because I’d love to be able to get into a virtual writing room and get that kind of support. But I just get distracted and I can’t write. 

Crys: That makes a lot of sense.

I actually do function really well, most of the time, with something to block out. Now, granted, I will often have headphones on, but there’s something about that weird white level of noise that isn’t computer generated. If it’s just life around me, if it’s super consistent and not occasional. 

Occasional noise will really distract me, but consistent  hubbub often puts me in a really good place where I have to block things out and so I focus better. 

J: Yeah, I can understand that. 

Crys: In TASM, we do the writing room two different ways, actually. We have times on the schedule where groups of people have said, Hey, I am going to be here consistently at this time. Okay? So we have some really consistent morning people who are there every morning from, I think it’s something like five o’clock in the morning Eastern time to six or seven, and everyone just signs on. 

There’s a chat bar, they talk to each other there. Greetings, any questions they need something for writing: Hey, what do you guys think about this name? Or I’m having trouble with this that all happens in the chat bar. Everybody keeps their videos off and their sound off and they just communicate by chat, but they’re all like, Hey, we’re here actively doing the thing.

So that’s one way that we use it in TASM. 

Another way: I run sprints. And then this is a way that I work really well. And that’s, we will get on a little early and chit-chat for a while. Life, writing ,questions about business, just like water cooler type talk. 

And then I’ll say, okay, we’re going to write for 20 minutes. We generally write from the top of the hour for 20 minutes and then I’ll call a break. We all hop on video. We have our audio on, you have another five minutes of chit-chat. Then we go on for another 20 minutes of work, and then we have a 15 minute chat. 

I really like doing that. And then throughout the day in the evenings, we have other people who will just message in Slack and say, Hey, I’m going to jump in the writing room if anyone else wants a writing buddy. 

So there’s someone in there a lot throughout the day, a lot throughout the week, and we have different ways that the groups run. And I think it’s been really useful for, I don’t know, a good portion of our folks. But like you said, like there’s people like you, who that doesn’t work for them at all.

J: Yeah. That’s something we talk about all the time, too. Not every tool is going to work for everyone. And so you just have to figure out what works for you. Once you figure it out, then use it. And I think that’s why you and I try really hard inside of TASM to provide multiple varieties of support.

There are some people who are in Slack on a daily basis. There are some people who have never joined Slack, and there are some people who love listening to podcasts and other people have to watch videos. 

It’s just important to recognize those differences. And it’s important for us as the leaders of that community to make sure we provide those opportunities for everybody.

Crys: Yep. A couple more notes I have about the writing rooms and this is mypersonal preference is I know that I get overwhelmed if there’s more than, I don’t know, like eight people in a room? Six is probably like my top preferred, but more than that in those chat sessions, I get really overwhelmed. 

And you’d think that’s weird cause it’s just, on video, they’re not really there. But it’s the same for me as if I were in a room with people, but almost harder because in a room of people who like, you can connect with two people on the side, but online, you have to connect with everybody if you’re connecting with anybody.

J: Yes. 

Crys: There have been groups that I have left because they got really popular and really busy. And I couldn’t consistently participate in them anymore because if there were too many people, I then got overloaded and had to leave. And couldn’t do that writing room at all. 

J: That makes sense.

Crys: Yeah. There’s. I have another group of friends. There’s just four of us and we meet some mornings and work for a couple hours, however long everybody’s available. 

I really love those small groups where you’re really getting to know individuals. That’s both of our preference, I think. That’s how we connect with people is in those small groups using larger events to find those people that we really connect with.

J: Yes, I agree. 

Crys: And do you have a question for our listeners about writing group writing rooms? 

J: Have you ever joined a virtual writing room? And if so, what was your experience like? 

Crys: Thanks for joining us this week! Drop your answer below, and if you would like to be part of the conversations in real time, you can join us at The Author Success Mastermind.

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