I see this happen time and time again, and I love how fresh and surprising the pieces scribbled in just a few minutes in the company of friends invariably are. I used to meet my friends on Friday nights for a beer and scribble session, either in someone's house or a restaurant. (Didn't we get some funny looks!) Some of us were pretty motivated writers flying solo during the week, one or two didn't put pen to paper between meetings. But when we got together, took a random writing prompt (a word from a dictionary, the first line, a picture) and wrote at speed (a whole story in five, ten, twenty minutes!) there was a strange synergy that seemed to attract stories to our notebooks. Saras' short story which appears in the next Silverfish collection got written this way one magical evening at Leah's house. (Leah and I were both very happy with our pieces too!)
And here's something I wrote way back about one of our meet-ups in the early days:
The electricity was off in Soo Choon's house, which gave us a wonderful excuse to sit in the garden and write by the combined light of two torches and a candle. The simplest writing exercises are often the most fun. I'd brought a little pocket dictionary with me and we took it in turns to open it at random and read out the first noun on the page, which was our starting point for writing for three exhilerating minutes. Four people. Four words. Twelve minutes of frantic scribbling. And then we took turns to read out what we'd written. It was amazing how differently everyone had interpreted the words, and what a variety of images leapt from the mind. We were all off in completely different directions, with images and anecdotes and the start of stories that might yet be written. Mercy had chosen to follow one character, a sculptor, through all four of the prompts. "How come I've stared at my notebook all week and not been able to write a thing" said Saras "but the minute we all sit down together my pen can't keep up with my thoughts?"Judy Reeves in Writing Alone, Writing Together (a book that influenced me a great deal) notes the same phenomena in action:
During writing practice groups, prompts are given and from these few words, stories, poems and essays and scenes from novels get written right then and there. At least first drafts that flare up wild as prairie fires or emerge soft as twilight in September. Seeds are sown, characters appear (and disappear), ideas take root, and notebooks get filled. Something else happens, too. A certain and electric current of connection, not just from one writer to another, but one human to another. ... Some call it the creative force. Magic. I say that the muse likes to work in crowds. Something happens when we write together that - if you trust it and go with it - can take the writing and the writer to unexpected, surprising places of memory and imagination.You don't need much to make this happen ... a couple of friends, a space, a notebook, and a prompt for a starting point ...
Oh ... and a beer is nice.