I realized that I write best when I”m around people. Well, not exclusively, but I feel most productive when I balance out writing on my own and writing near someone. I don’t mean with a writing group per se, but my most productive writing came when I joined a writing circle where we just wrote, possibly ate lunch after, but never read each other’s works.
Yes, this means that I just wanted them for their bodies — or to rephrase that in a less lascivious way, I just liked the sense of presence, because writing can be lonely.
When I was in college, I liked writing essays near people. During my time abroad, this worked out because we used the dining room in our boarding house set-up as a writer’s island. But this only worked if you were in the zone and could let the room fall away.
But considering how I am as a person — I just like talking, ok? — I couldn’t sit around the dining table when I had people who I wanted to distract.
Yes, like this cat, I didn’t want people to type and actually get work done if I couldn’t get work done. Simply, I was being jealous and loved procrastinating.
To their credit, people hardly paid attention to me. To my credit, I realized that I at least had to make an outline or start writing on my own before I could come to a group. This is why I once dragged my friend Stephanie into our house’s attic nook to write. The attic nook was a cramped random space in our refurbished house. One desk and chair fit just right with only a set of stairs leading up to it, so it was perfect for intense writing. With it being my final essay, I needed to buckle down, so I could prance around the house and celebrate with those lucky bastards who finished their final essay of the semester. Only, my antsy feet, brought on by my oncoming free, wouldn’t let me stay still.
I wanted people to be near, but I couldn’t do it with such a large group or I’d start playing that “when I’m done with this essay I’ll —” this usually ended with responses like “buy ice cream,” “dance,” or “die happy.” (We were dramatic.) So I needed a small bit of social presence as I wrote, less I get distracted. I asked Stephanie to sit near me, since she was done or close to it, and the girl brought up her stuffed hippo, sat on the floor near my desk and waited. She read and texted a bit, she let me crack a few jokes before I went back to writing, but I am super grateful that she stayed patiently put until I typed out my concluding paragraph about Margaret of Anjou.
To this day, we crack jokes about how odd that was request was, and in retrospect, I realize just that my heady desperation to get to work needed someone nearby as a sort of stress reliever, to remind me of my place or to have their calming presence to keep me balanced psychologically.
My recent “just write” group worked in the same way I suppose. Writing isn’t usually known as a social activity, but many times, I ask my writer friends if they want to meet in a public place and write. Sure, with some this dissolves into a catch-up, but we do always give it a shot. It may depend on how or what each of us is working on, but I do get some writing done — even if it is for a few minutes, even if it is just to talk out my idea.
I think I write best with others because I like hearing their own keyboards hammering away to keep me on track. And sure, I guess a competitive part of me feels egged on to keep writing, no matter what it is. Sometimes too, “just writing” and not talking about it afterwards gives me a freedom that I like.
Apparently, I do this often. I just take activities that should be reserved for when you’re on your own — reading, writing, napping — and I try to make them sound like “hang out” activities.
“Hey so-and-so, let’s meet up? Oh, what did I have in mind? Can we read together? Well, I’m in the middle of this good book, and I thought you could bring your own book and we could just bask in each other’s presence but get lost in some good, separate narratives. What? Is that weird?”
Okay, so I may not talk to that person, but I really appreciate what they bring to the table, namely their body.