Dear Indigo:

Daylight Saving Time has ended, the holidays are dancing in the wings, and I’m not confident that I’m going to keep on keepin’ on through these winter months. Tips?

Smashed-Pumpkin Brain


Hey, Punkin,

Be kind to yourself! Your brain is not a smooshy mess, and you’ve taken a great first step simply by trying to plan for this. I decided to turn to two experts, who provided me with two stories chock-full of inspiration, writing-related asides, and three summary ideas for staying on this beautiful, albeit windy (and windy), writing path.

Kristy Athens (fun fact: she’s the owner and creative brain behind one of Sledgehammer Writing Contest‘s sponsors!) founded Time to Write! on Boxing Day (December 26), 2005, right during this busy and gloomy time of year.

“I started it because even though I was a full-time freelance writer and editor, I was always working on clients’ projects and not mine. I was only slightly more successful with putting dates in my calendar for creative writing—I could still get distracted by the laundry or the dog, and if a client deadline moved I would pitch my commitment to my fiction and work on it. So, I decided that if I were to invite people over to my house, I would be committed to write myself.”

At the time, Kristy lived in the Gorge, but she still attracted four to a dozen writers to her house one Saturday each month. After a half hour of coffee collecting and settling in, everyone wrote from 10:00 a.m.—”it would be completely quiet,” Kristy said—until 12:30 p.m., when there would be a potluck lunch. When Kristy and her spouse moved four years later, Time to Write! faced something of a crisis. The model had proved “very successful” (Kristy, for one, started a book during that time that would come to be published), so no one wanted it to just disappear.

“I decided to create a group on Facebook so that anyone could recreate this model wherever they are, on whatever day they want (I have a friend in Israel, for example, for whom Saturday is the sabbath). So, the idea is to do Time to Write! in a physical place, but we all support each other virtually on Facebook.”

After attending a meeting of the flagship Shut Up & Write (SU&W) chapter in San Francisco, Cinamon Vann, with the help of founder Rennie Saunders, launched the Sacramento chapter.

“There’s something about being immersed in the creative energy of all the writers in the room that is inspiring.”

Just as Time to Write! has been around for a while, the Bay Area SU&W has been on Meetup since 2007 and has more than 2,400 members. But Cinamon’s Sacramento-based group has proven it doesn’t take long to grow when there’s a need. Its first meeting was in Sacramento was in April 2013 and now has close to 250 members, via Meetup, and an average of two to four gatherings per week.

“Several other writers have stepped up to host additional meetings,” Cinamon said, “which allows us to offer far more meetups per month than I could do all by myself. The most active co-organizer of the group has been Janna Marlies Maron.” (Janna is founder of three writer-friendly ventures I encourage you take a look at for inspiration or to participate in, so click on each part of her name for a different one.)

The Sacramento chapter of SU&W makes an effort to link its group with the wider writing community. Last month, it hosted a writing workshop led by an area writer and writing teacher and advocate. “The idea,” Cinamon said, “was to bring in a new activity for our members, while also reaching out to people beyond our group. Instructor Kate Asche donated the proceeds of the event to four local nonprofits that support the writing community.”

Though her work with SU&W may make Cinamon look like a writing fiend, she said that most of the time, those meetings are the only time she focuses on her writing. But she does suggest two more “small” tips for keeping writing:

1) “When the inspiration hits, stop what you’re doing and jot down ideas in a notebook or on the computer. Even if you can’t write down everything at that moment, it will help restart your creativity when you do get a chance to sit down and write later. I sometimes write myself an email to help me remember ideas I want to write about.”

2) “When I come across a beautifully written sentence or passage by another writer, I often write it down and post it on a board in my office. Sometimes it will trigger me to write an essay or story that builds on that idea.”

And, of course, there is a third tip, exemplified by both Time to Write! and Shut Up & Write:

3) Set aside dedicated time to write and doing so with a group, online, or in person may be the key to success. You never miss a staff meeting at your day job, right? If you are a part of a “staff” of writers, you’ll be just as committed to those appointments.

I’ll leave you with this related thought, which my Indigo colleague Kristen Hall-Geisler posted the other day: “I decided at 8:18 p.m. on October 31 to do NaNoWriMo, which seems like the sane way to do it. Too much planning and it becomes ‘a thing.’ I’m now kind of accidentally 2,000+ words into a new novel. Feeling determined.” Decide. Write. Reap the benefits.


Next month we’ll be answering a question about gifts to give writers and readers. We’d appreciate your suggestions. Email or post on our Facebook page.

Kristin Thiel is Indigo’s co-owner and senior editor.