A writer rarely has the opportunity to just wallow in the writing, to enjoy it like chocolate covered strawberries. Most of us feel obliged to our writing, serving the story or poem, and each effort requires a ‘product,’ an outcome that serves a purpose. Maybe it will be the next scene or chapter, maybe we’re adding to our chapbook of poetry.
I was recently invited on a Writing Marathon at the Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine. The experience reminded me to take joy in my writing.
Writing Marathons come in many forms, all with the central tenet just to write in a continuous burst with no censoring or internal critiquing. Digital forms of this include the writing challenges shared on Twitter, where followers across the country stop, drop, and write for a set time. At its most extreme form, National Novel Writing Month is a Writing Marathon.
For me, however, getting away from my normal writing workstation can really break down a rut, especially visiting a place as lovely and verdant as the Bartlett Arboretum. Sitting at my home computer makes me feel like I need to get some ‘work’ done. And writing doesn’t always have to be ‘work.’
A location Writing Marathon can force me outside of my normal expectations, and can make me open that inner writer’s eye and take note of my surroundings. I’ve also learned that what at first can seem like a fruitless description on the grassy hillside can later inform my description of setting in my latest Work in Progress. Rather than squishing me into ‘guilt mode’ for wasting time, Writing Marathons are fun!
The format for a location Writing Marathon is simple. Start with a group of friends, writing materials (I prefer paper and pen to keep things simple), and a location (I’ve been in both urban settings like Oldtown in Wichita, as well as more ‘natural’ settings). Then simply follow this form:
10 minutes of continuous writing (actually, all ‘writing time’ is meant to be continuous)
Writers share (this should be done with no feedback from listeners. It’s too easy to slip into critique mode, and this has a tendency to squish the freedom of just writing. Listeners are encouraged to simply say “Thank you for sharing.”)
15 min write
20 min write
25 (or sometimes 30 min) write
For our particular time at the Bartlett Arboretum, writers brought and enjoyed a picnic lunch after our morning of writing. It became a wonderful time.. Members agreed to share some of what they wrote. If you would like to see samples from the participants, visit April in Wichita. I have found that the seemingly random ramblings of my journal later become diamonds to mine for my own poetry. But a Writers Marathon isn’t just for poets. Members of our group included a science fiction writer, an essayist, and a playright. And the material produce reflected our own media preferences.
Future Writing Marathons will be arranged for this summer. If KWA members are interested in participating, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.