Nine years ago, I was staring down the barrel of a long San Francisco summer at home with a two-year-old when my creative writing teacher wrote with a proposal. “I’m contacting my personal essay students,” Jane said. “I have an idea for a new class. I want your help to try it out.”
Basically, she planned to pair two of us up for a week at a time. Then she’d provide us with a week’s worth of writing prompts (“the last time I saw” or “urgent” or “they go into the bedroom”). Each day, we were each responsible for writing 10-15 minutes, emailing the piece to our partner, and then responding to our partner’s exercise, which we called a “write.”
The process sounds simple — and it really is. But having a date to write every day — with someone expecting to read it on the other end, someone who would tattle to Jane if you blew it off — was really motivating.
I learned to get around the daily scramble for things I wanted to write about by making a list. Then, at writing time every day, I’d pick something from my list of topics that matched up with the prompts. I’d set the timer for 15 minutes and my fingers would fly across the keys.
That first Round Robin was three months long. It was exhausting — and exhilarating — for everyone involved. These days, the class is only nine weeks long, which still provides more than 60 chances to be brilliant.
I’ve taken the Round Robin (or served as an alternate when Jane needed a sub to step in) 27 times. I’ve used it to write short stories for both Haunted Mansion Project books and Demon Lovers, as well as the story I just sold to Fright Mare: Women Write Horror. I’ve written essays which have appeared in Wish You Were Here, Writing in Cafes, and in my blogs. I used the process to finish The Dangerous Type and work on The Shadow of Death, my work-in-progress.
Through the Round Robin, I’ve met some amazingly talented writers. They inspired me with their work and encouraged me with their responses to my writing.
A new session of the Round Robin is starting up on Sunday. Use it to jumpstart your writing. You will not be sorry. Here’s the link: http://www.writingsalons.com/tag/round-robin/
Tell Jane I sent you.