Jen, Mel and Sue write together weekly using cards designed by Dale Adams Segal. The process begins with a meditation and focus exercise, then a prompt to launch into twenty minutes of writing. The prompts can apply to any writing style or project; we usually apply them to the next chapter of our novels. There are two more prompts and timed writing sets to total one hour, or a full circle on the clock. Upon finishing, we read what we’ve written aloud to each other. No apologies, no hiding, just sharing the pleasure of a fresh first draft in all its rough hopes and dreams, with the response of each other’s laughter or silence resonating with our own feelings about what we’ve written. It is immediate and visceral feedback and there is nothing like it to give a sense of which direction the story is headed, and which veins of story are laden with gold.
I’m personally addicted to this method of writing because I work to deadlines. I work especially well to commitments I’ve made to other people, feeling a personal obligation to not let them down, and my secret people-pleasing nature is well satisfied if I can entertain another person. It’s the perfect exercise for an ADHD introvert. It’s a discipline that grows with each use into a habit, a tradition, a sacred rite. There’s a mystical quality to the cards I can’t explain, as if they know what I need to write about better than I do, better than my preconceived outline does. I find myself looking forward to this as the highlight of my writing week.
They say that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Because this method breaks my enormous dream of “writing career” into smaller bits (one hour divided into twenty minute increments), I have been able to finish two first drafts of novels in three years during this weekly writing practice. And like any circle, there is no end to this process. It keeps going and building. It isn’t just the thousand words of that day, but the consistency of writing every week, the stability and support of friendships that deepen and sustain and bud forth unexpected fruit. After five years together, the magic built up to birth a magazine that seems to have a life of its own.
Small beginnings can have big endings. Several people have already signed up to join us for a writing date, with proceeds to go towards the magazine. If you live far away, you may purchase the cards we use through Dale’s website (thehourstories.com). Wherever you begin, we hope you can find your own writing partners and experience the magic of an endless circle.