Focus, Productivity, and Community in One

In the middle of my wallowing and feeling like crap when the Pandemic began, I took a dance class with Ryan Heffington, which zapped me back to life with a dose of perspective and joy. It was designated time to focus on one thing: moving my body and having fun (and a much-needed break from doomscrolling on my phone). He truly helped me feel better — like myself again.

Right now, we live in an “attention economy,” where the most precious resource is exactly that. All day, people are trying to steal this from us. I don’t know about you, but I sure want to reclaim mine. Picture it as recouping your focus from the world.

I wanted to replicate the feeling for writers. What did we need at that moment? For me, it was community, calm, and focused time to write. I decided to try something new and host meditate-and-write sessions via Zoom every Saturday morning.

Turns out, a decade of listening to meditations made it easy to lead one.

I’ve gravitated toward Insight Meditation practice, focusing on the breath through a body scan and breathing with intention, which I’ve learned mostly from Tara Brach. And after 10 minutes of meditation, we start writing with that pleasant post-meditation buzz.

Why We Need Meditation Extra in 2020

Life in 2020 feels like danger is lurking around every corner, inducing debilitating stress and anxiety. Usually I direct that energy toward obsessively checking my email (and Instagram, and Twitter), but this group has kept me both calm and accountable, with hands off the cell phone.

Even if you just end up journaling, writing your feelings or thoughts or ideas out makes you feel better, like a mini therapy session. And you never know when you’ll start seeing a pattern in your writing. It could flow into a new essay or the first chapter of a novel. You won’t create a masterpiece every day, but if you make a regular habit of creating, your chances certainly increase.

I’ve also loved spending time with the community we’ve built. Seeing both new and familiar faces, meeting writers — staying and chatting after our writing sessions is now one of my favorite parts of the week. It’s an opportunity to learn from other writers, talk about creative struggles, and network. (Where the hell else are we networking these days?)

This group has helped me so much this year, and my hope is for it to reach even more writers. I met the wonderful April Davila at AWP in March and learned she hosted a similar group. We got to talking and I’m excited to announce we decided to join forces in a Care Bear Stare of writerly mindfulness.

By partnering, we’re now able to host meetings more frequently throughout the week at varied times. We’re like a yoga studio, with various teachers and classes at different times, only we offer a meditation, a free write, a chance to meet fellow writers, and continue building this great community. 

Why “A Very Important Meeting”

In choosing a name, April and I decided to go with “A Very Important Meeting,” because it’s exactly that. In the long term, writing is such a significant part of our lives, but in the moment, we don’t always treat it that way. We get into our daily to-do lists, and writing falls further and further down the hierarchy. So if anyone asks why you can’t make a socially distanced brunch, you can say you have A Very Important Meeting (and not be lying.)

We did our first test run this week, during which Emma Gannon so kindly included it in her newsletter:

After six days of writing with others, I work up Sunday kind of bummed that I didn’t have anyone to write with.

I’ve loved hearing testimonials from our community, like this is the first time they’ve written in months, or they finally were able to complete something simply by having this designated time. I love hearing about everyone’s projects, memoirs and novels and essays. One woman in the group is going through grief, and we all sent her the books and resources that have helped us.

So, for anyone interested in getting writing done and participating in secular mindfulness, we invite you! If you can’t afford to make the suggested $5 contribution, you are just as welcome to come and hang out. No one will be turned away.

We hope to see you there!

Heres the link to join us:

Tagged under:

1 Comment

  • Annis Reply

    I love taking a pause from my writing and looking up to see fellow writers’ heads bent over their work. The energy of the collective comes through the screen, and I feel like we’re together. The visiting at the end and getting to know each other is a definite highlight. Thanks so much, Paulette. xoA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.