"Getting out" without going anywhere

I think a lot of people have this preconceived mental image of the Solitary Writer. As if we are some kind of rare animal you watch on the Discovery Channel, our every move narrated by a melodramatic British man:

“There she is, alone in the dim light, hunched over her laptop, pecking erratically at the keys. Watch as she mutters to herself and stares forlornly out the window. With her ratty hair and poor fashion sense, she really is an odd sight to behold. But when she produces that smooth, lyrical prose — oh! — she is a wondrous creature indeed.”

Okay, if I’m being honest, I suppose we are like that sometimes. I mean, my daily work clothes are cotton shorts and a tank top (or yoga pants and a hoodie when it’s cold) and I spend 50-70% of my day on the computer with only my dog Riley for company.

You’d think that all that alone time would mean I get a lot done. But sometimes it’s too much of a good thing. Sometimes I need chores to break up my day. Sometimes I need social interaction to stay sane.

Obvious solution: go out!

And yeah, that works. I like mixing up my week by spending a day at the coffee shop or the library. But when you’re a Poor Writer Folk, every penny counts. I tell myself that each smoothie, each tank of gas, is an investment in my career — and it’s true — but at the same time, I have to live within my means.

Enter Google Hangout.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think Google Plus is all that and a bag of chips. I mean, it’s fine, but what does it do for me that Facebook and Twitter don’t? Nothing. HOWEVER. Regardless of what happens to Plus, I hope Google will keep the Hangout feature. It’s like Skype, only different. Hangout works directly through your browser and lets you video chat (with up to 9 other people) for free.

In other words, I can “get out” without even leaving my home.

Author Jamie Ford has been hosting weekly writers Hangouts every Wednesday afternoon, and I admit I went into the first one thinking, “I’ll just try this once to be nice.” Turns out, it’s awesome. We chat for 15 minutes, work for 45, repeat every hour. To my surprise, I’m relatively productive during these Hangouts, which in turn makes me happy, which in turn makes me more productive.

I think it’s because I have more fun being distracted by fellow writers than my own pointless web surfing. And they make it easier to get back to work. When their keys are clicking, I know mine should be too. The internet, on the other hand, never says, “Okay, Kristan, that’s enough goofing around.”

So what I’m saying is, even the Solitary Writer needs friends sometimes. And the right kind of distractions can actually make you more productive. If you can’t meet up with a buddy or work at a coffee shop, give Hangout a try. In fact, tomorrow is Wednesday. Join me and Jamie if you can!

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9 Comments

  1. Definitely sounds like an interesting idea. What time does it start? And how long does it last? I assume it’s during the day, and I can’t write during the day due to circumstance (damn kids), but I can see how it could be useful.

  2. Too cool!! Like you, I’m not shouting from the rooftop over G+, but this is such an interesting – and compelling – feature. Writing can be such a solitary endeavor, but that sense of community brings in a whole different dynamic.

    Thanks for the heads up! :)

  3. I haven’t found the Hangout part of Google+, but it sounds kind of cool. Although I guess I’d need to get out of my pajamas if a bunch of other people are actually going to see me!

  4. Oh, neat! I’ve never tried Google Hangout. I think my internet is too slow for video chats. =\ But how awesome that it helps you with productivity! And I just checked out Jamie’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet from the library this past weekend (it was one of the books I read when I was locked out, lol). I loved it! :)

  5. Les

    Sounds like a really good idea, I hope you keep it up. And yeah I’m not sure what to think of G+ other than for now, Facebook won lol.

  6. Sonje-
    2 PM Eastern time. Usually until 4 or 5 I think? I usually duck out around 4. Several of the participants have kids, who we sometimes see pass by in the background, lol.

    Sherrie-
    It’s on the right-hand sidebar. “Start a Hangout.” You can sit there and wait for people to join you (but seeing a G+ is a ghost town, you might be waiting a long time) or you can schedule Hangouts with people.

    Linda-
    Yeah, internet connection can be an issue. We started using Hangout for WHYA meetings since Ingrid moved to Colorado, and it can get a bit choppy if we’re all at Starbucks. With a decent connection, though, it’s quite fun!

    And ZOMG yes, I loved Hotel. Jamie’s a great guy, I can’t wait to read more from him.

    Les-
    Lol yup.

  7. I’ve been wondering bout the whole hangout thing. Sounds like fun. I suppose I’ll have to buy a web cam and microphone now. Lol.

  8. I really enjoy the hangout feature. Google+ does seem like a ghost town that I like to visit from time to time. So glad I got out of my facebook habit.
    British aren’t really melodramatic. Just saying. But I love that you made me say that paragraph with an accent. :)
    Glad you’ve got ways to “get out” besides just the Riley walk.
    I’ve switched laptops with James now (his has really slow internet) so I won’t be so distracted. Hopefully it will mean more evening productivity!!
    (speaking of which, I really need to read your finished MS. come on!)

  9. Sarah-
    ARGH I know I know… I suck. :(

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