Jeanne: The Sprint Room

A couple of months ago, in a Facebook group to which we both belong, a friend who lives in Melbourne, Australia posted a plea for help. She wanted to start getting up at 4:30 a.m. to write. Would anyone be willing to join a sprint room with her to help provide some motivation/accountability?

Since my own work-in-progress was progressing a lot more slowly than I preferred, my hand instantly shot up. Four-thirty a.m. Melbourne time is 2:30 p.m. Eastern. It wasn’t my “ideal” writing time, which is early morning, but I hadn’t been managing to sit down each morning, so I didn’t have much to lose.

We didn’t set it up with the challenges/prizes/back-patting that I’ve experienced in other sprint events I’ve participated in. (Thank God. I’m as competitive as the next person, but for me competition and creativity don’t mix.)

We started out using Zoom as our platform, but soon moved over to a Facebook room within the original FB group. Other than the occasional power or internet outage, that seems to work well. Over the next couple of weeks, various writers joined the sprints. Most quickly decided it wasn’t a fit for them.

After that initial burn-in period, the group settled down to four of us who show up most weekdays. I live in Ohio, another lives in San Francisco, a third in London and the original requester, as mentioned, is in Melbourne. We are all over the map and all over the clock. Fortunately, the person with the most challenging start-time is the person who requested it.

The two of us who live in the States often start early (1 p.m. my time) and the others join in later. We generally open by chatting for a few minutes (about where we all our with our various Covid-19 levels and restrictions, about things going on with friends and family, about challenges or triumphs with our WIPs).

Then we start a series of half-hour sprints. It’s entertaining to watch what happens as the afternoon progresses. With each iteration of timer going off, it takes each of us a little longer to return from where we’ve been (Paris, Eden (the planet, not the garden), the Principality of Caldermor, and, of course, Hell). We stare into our computer cameras and blink silently, confused by the relativity of time and loath to leave the Land of Imagination. Often, we lengthen the sprints for 45 minutes or even an hour to allow for greater spans of concentration.

Organizationally, it’s very loose. If someone needs to leave early, they slide away. If other priorities call, they don’t show up. If someone doesn’t show up for several days in a row, we’ll check in to make sure they’re okay, but there’s no pressure. The group is designed more for support and motivation than accountability.

In August, before joining this sprint room, I penned 5445 words. In September, 16257 and in October, 16,785. Having this camaraderie essentially tripled my word count. Another month like the last two and I’ll have a first draft. (Woo-hoo!)

What experience have you had with sprint rooms?

8 thoughts on “Jeanne: The Sprint Room

  1. The whole working with a group or sprinting or any form of let’s-work-together doesn’t really work for me. I have a routine, but I don’t like to be obliged to it, and I don’t like to feel like I’m missing out or not being supportive if I’m not there. I don’t like the pressure of working to a word count, or even doing anything except staring at the screen. I know that’s not what sprints or the NaNo groups are about, but that’s how I feel or react, so it’s no use to say to me, you don’t have to feel that pressure, because I do, and it’s killer.

    I’ve been to quiet places where people just sit around with their laptops and come and go as they please and don’t talk to anybody. That works okay. But for me, as soon as organization steps in, creativity steps out.

    But whatever works, that’s my motto! Good going on the sprints and the word counts, and I hope that draft finishes up in record time.

  2. That’s great, Jeanne. How wonderful that you’ve found a group and a routine that is working for you. Sounds like you’re well on your way to a finished draft!

  3. (-: That sounds like a great community! (To call back to yesterday’s post.)

    I do like writing with other people. My friend and I have done a couple of writing sessions on Zoom. A little talk, 45 minutes working, a little more talk, and then we decide if we want to write a little longer or not. I like to minimize the writing window and the Zoom window so I can hear her tap-tap-tapping and see her concentrating face while I work!

    But I’m a bit of a commitment-phobe, and she’s busy, so we don’t commit to a weekly write-in.

    It sounds like you have a good system worked out! Plus, news and information! Very cool!

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