During this protracted period of isolation due to COVID-19, I have discovered the pleasures and paradoxes of writing in Zoom rooms. Being connected to people on a shared mission of writing deepens my focus yet the thereness of people, the sheer endlessness of other people’s, well, humanity, with their feelings, faces, and cool backgrounds and all, threatens my focus on my own work.
I embrace this paradox and enjoy my Zoom writers’ rooms with a few simple best practices I have developed over the last few months.
5 Best Practices for Zoom Writers’ Rooms
1. Remember that the Zoom room isn’t magical and you need to prepare and help yourself to create the conditions for focus. Start getting ready the night before. Have your snacks, water, and other meals and comforts planned out. Treat it like you’re going away on a retreat (at home). Close the door on disappointments, perfectionism, and aggravations—except in the case of deciding what to work on first.
2. Do the thing you hate the most first. Not sure what this is? It’s probably the thing you were most excited about a few weeks ago.
3. Breathe in: I’m not here to make friends. Breathe out: Do not direct message other members of the writing room. And don’t stare! The writers’ room has an unspoken pact to protect each other from interruptions and potential saboteurs including and especially each other.
4. Take breaks—turn off the camera when you feel like it. Step away to do one household chore such as moving the laundry from the washer to the dryer. Stretch while seated in your chair or simply close your eyes. But use a timer! Three to five minutes is plenty.
5. Share your wins and celebrate those of your fellow writers unironically. I love the soft dopamine rush of sharing my wins, however minuscule they may seem, and celebrating wins along with my temporary community that writes together, apart and silently, is the perfect blessing for our now less lonely solitude.
Here are a couple of additional resources related to virtual writing rooms.
- Writers Guild of America West has a pretty thorough list of best practices and steps for having active and productive writers’ rooms. Read more here.
- This piece from Los Angeles Magazine shares how a Zoom writers’ room helped keep one writer sane and connected to the outside world during the pandemic.