Yep. Sometimes we actually do get around to popping a blog post on here! It’s not always easy to find the time to do so. Let’s face it, it can be tricky setting the time aside to write whatever you’re meant to be writing. And that’s where, later on, this blog post gets a bit meta.
In episode 23 we had a chat about the Writer’s Hour. An online Zoom meet-up for anyone writing anything to… well… write. For an hour.
Jon had told us in an earlier podcast episode that he’d tried it and thought we all should give it a go. Obviously Dave and I reckoned it all sounded a bit weird. Because it does. It just seemed like exactly the kind of overly positive, wholesome hippy nonsense that Jon invariably gets us involved with. I mean, how could it ever be a good idea just rolling up on to a mass Zoom call with a bunch of strangers, saying “hi” before sitting there in silence for fifty minutes, cracking on with whatever writing you’re doing?
But then we tried it together, writing some poems for a competition with a deadline that same day. And we all actually really liked it. Not only did the folks hosting the session make it an amazingly positive and wholesome experience (in a really good, genuine way), it just made you feel obliged to actually do something rather than having a day-dream. You just don’t feel like you can lazily drift off when Hayden Winklemayer from Albuquerque, Gregg P Karlson Jr from Ontario and Janice Puddlebottom from Cambridge are staring out of the screen to keep you on the straight and narrow.
I think behind its success lies a bit of innate human psychology that you can’t really fight against. If people are looking at you, your behaviour changes. There’re studies that suggest if you put a mirror or picture of yourself on the front of your fridge you’re less likely to dip in there for a cheeky little snack. And the cut-out of the policeman outside a high-street shop? Well, that’s there because it actually reduces shoplifting. All part of the same bit of our stone-age brain I reckon. We react to being watched.
So, here I am right now, on Writer’s Hour, writing this! (Told you it would get a bit meta). Yep. Right now I’m sat in front of Zoom watching countless people nibbling on their hands, drinking coffee, stroking beards, running fingers through hair and occasionally letting their fingers have a wander around their keyboards. It’s great. If you’re struggling to get some writing done – whether that’s a stalling novel that needs a kick-start, a load of e-mails for work or maybe even a blog post for your podcast – this really is a fantastic place to do it.
After having a go at it with Jon and Dave, I was a little intrigued to find out more. So, I dropped them an email in reply to the joyful newsletter/emails that they send you on a regular basis if you sign up. They say on the email that if you reply they promise to get back to you. And they do! Here’s the email:
Hi there, Hope you are well! We're going to be talking about our experience of taking part in Writer's Hour on our podcast this week. There's three of us presenting it, and one of those three (Jon) took part a few weeks ago. He was extolling the virtues of it and myself and Dave were a little sceptical, it has to be said. Anyway, we did it last week and it was actually really good! We'd set ourselves the task of writing a poem in the session to submit to a poetry comp with a deadline of later the same day. I ended up writing three poems?! Shows what a bit of focus can do. Along with, what I have to say, was a lovely, chilled, positive environment that you guys create within the session.
This is so cool! We're excited that you're discussing WH.
So, I wondered whether I could ask a couple of questions? What's the most common feedback from writers about how the writer's hour works for them? Is it just a case of focus? Making that appointment to write? What is it that makes it work?
The feedback is pretty varied. Accountability, the sense of community, feeling seen. Not feeling alone. I think in terms of what makes it work, there's something about the rituals we've built in. You come in knowing what to expect, a welcome + words of wisdom cheers.
How many writers do you host over the course of an average week?
It has varied over the course of the year and a half that we've run it. We've grown from 9 in our first session to a height of 900 in a day (over 4 sessions). At the moment, we have 600-700 writers a day joining us.
Are you all really that nice and positive all the time?? It really was a lovely, lovely vibe!
Haha, we try to bring in our love for Mary Oliver and Stoicism so that we keep a calm but creative and tough approach to our work. And also, Matt & I believe that we should bring joy into our work, we try to remind ourselves of why we started the Salon and try to be intentional about how we work/ live.
What smashing people. They even sent across some feedback that they’ve recorded from writers taking part. There’s reams and reams of it. People saying it’s a relief, that it helps them sidestep their chronic anxiety, that it’s reconnected them to their creativity. The word motivation crops up more than a few times, as does the word productive. But there’s one word or sentiment that echoes most strongly throughout all the feedback. Thank you.
People are genuinely grateful to the folk at Writer’s Hour for what they do – and not just for what they do, but for the ridiculously positive and uplifting way that they do it. Give it a try yourself. Even a cynical old bastard like me has to take my hat off to them and say it’s just a bloody decent, feel-good way to do get some momentum and motivation into your writing.