A Zoom Writing Retreat

Although lockdown is gradually easing, there are still lots of things we can’t do. Groups meeting together indoors is one of them. This has led to the rise and rise of Zoom, video conferencing software that most of us had never heard of at the beginning of March but now use regularly. I take part in Speakers’ Club and Shared Reading on Zoom. We have family catch-ups and quizzes and there’s been guided alcohol tasting too!

On Saturday I tried something new – an all-day Writers’ Retreat on Zoom.

It was organised by Sophy Dale of Fully Booked and ran from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. There were around twenty of us online and Sophy stopped any chaotic, cross conversation by keeping us all on mute. Instead of speaking we typed in the chat box a few sentences about what we intended working on. This included novels, short stories, blog posts, a translation and a guided meditation, among other things. For those who didn’t have a project in mind, Sophy provided writing prompts and also offered guidance to anyone who was struggling or had questions.

Introductions and explanations over, Sophy set a timer for 45 minutes, we all minimised the Zoom window and started writing.

Zoom Writing Retreat

Timed 45 Minute Writing Sprints

It’s amazing how a defined time limit and the knowledge that others are beavering away too helps creativity! I focused on the chapter I was writing and the words came quickly.
After 45 minutes we were all called back together to add more comments to the chat window and then take a five minute comfort break before the next writing sprint. At lunchtime Sophy gave us an hour away from the screen and encouraged us to get some fresh air (I mowed the lawn, which went some way to cancelling out the ‘guilt’ I felt for spending a whole day on writing).

Through the course of the day we had five writing sprints. I switched from churning out words to reviewing the structure of the story and ironing out parts of the plot that didn’t work.

At the end of the afternoon there was time for comments on the day and everyone deemed it thoroughly beneficial. Sophy is planning on doing it all again sometime later in the year.

It struck me that a retreat like this would be easily organised by a group of writing friends – but it would require someone to have the paid-for version of Zoom. I fear the continuity of the retreat would be lost if participants had to keep logging into a new meeting every 40 minutes!

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  1. #1 by lynnforthauthor on July 13, 2020 - 9:55 am

    What a brilliant idea, Sally. And can I just add a little cheat I have found from hosting all my weekly Zoom meetings with various clubs and groups….. after your first free 40 minutes ends, if you then immediately click on the same meeting ID again, you get another free 40 minutes. I do it every morning so get 80 minutes for free. You can then schedule another set of meetings after a short break and get another 80 minutes and so on for the rest of the day. It’s worth trying.

    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on July 13, 2020 - 12:28 pm

      Thanks for the tip, Lynn. You’re obviously a pro at meeting hosting!

  2. #3 by juliathorley on July 13, 2020 - 2:41 pm

    This sounds as though it went really well. As I sit here psyching myself to attend a Zoom board meeting, I can only hope it goes better than last time! I’ve done a three-hour session with Foxes’ Retreat, and that was enhanced by our host Myszka’s use of breakout rooms. I don’t know how she did it, but it meant we could work and share in pairs, as well as in the whole group. I do agree about the value of the mute button, too.

    • #4 by Sally Jenkins on July 14, 2020 - 7:15 am

      Hope the board meeting went well, Julia. I don’t have a clue about breakout rooms but they sound like a useful way of making a Zoom workshop more like real life.

  1. A Zoom Writing Retreat — Sally Jenkins | Diana Jackson's Muse, Views and Reviews

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