Monday, January 16, 2012

Coworking, Groupthink, Collaboration, TPR

Have you heard of the co-working movement?

There actually was a New York Times article about how groupthink is a possibly harmful trend in society away from solitude and creativity.

There is a trend. I created TPR as a collaborative space. I host writing classes in my studio where we group write. I love Downton Abbey because of the whole ant-as-worker idea. The situation of those servants is enviable, all working together to cook, clean and serve, that sounds like my kind of dream. Many hands make light work. That is why people with kids have playdates. That is why GenX parents are paying so much attention to our children, in our own childhood we spent too much time alone. Or something. Don't get me started.

So I disagree some with that article. All I have to do is experience a totally packed yoga class and feel how much power there is in the combination of focused attention. When there is group focus, so much that is non-measurable gets done. The world is changing to accommodate that. I predict we are seeing a paradigm shift and we are moving away from old ideas of success and individualism to something so much more collaborative.

 So the challenge therefore is discipline. A way to work on our individual projects, and at the same time pool our resources. Find ways to support each other, but collaborate on energy and attention. Attention = Power. I am dangerously close to being new-age-y here. But you will know what I am talking about when you think about those moments at a concert or a ballgame. You have experienced it. Think about a party with a good host and the way talk and enjoyment flow. You have experienced it raising your kids and running marathons. Hell you have experienced it watching marathons. There is energy in crowds. It is learning how to manage the work along side the interaction. It's learning how to manage our creative process. It's learning how to use our intuition and apply solitude and concentration to get something done. It is learning to trust the creative process and knowing when to join the group and just get the dishes done and when to do butt-in-chair. Or perhaps the discipline is in making the work the ordinary, the everyday, the norm. It doesn't have to be brilliant. But that is better explored in a different post.

So I hadn't articulated the idea of groupthink when I started TPR, I just knew that it was something I wanted to explore. But now I know what The Practice Room is. It's a virtual coworking model. Maybe not the best one, just the first one that I have come up with. But it's the way of the future and it is only with experimentation and practice that we will get better at it.

 Dianne has an excellent post describing what we do over there. She is a marvelous host every Monday evening 8 pm eastern time zone. Write with her tonight. Try out the energy for yourself.

In other news, I have updated my class page with the first class listing of 2012. Click through here to read about it. We have begun experimenting with using our time together towards developing individual projects using the-crockpot-of-awesomeness model as described by the lovely TPRer, Marisa. We use directed exercises and conversation to supply images as ingredients, then let time simmer them into something complex and nourishing and hot. The final part is what you do on your own. Write, write, write.


  1. thanks for the reminder! Heading over there now to sign up for the evening's practice :)

  2. Hello Tina, I would go where you go Tina. I don't know much but I do know that to be in your group is wonderful.

  3. Hi, Marcy! How did it go last night? There were tons of folks there! I wish the Monday evenings weren't such a crazy time for me.

    Oh oceangirl, look how sweet you are! Going over to check up on you.

  4. I love this theme.
    My husband is a filmmaker, which is monstrously collaborative. If just the right people get together on just the right project, it's a blissful harmony. And when they don't... (shudder) For the last few years, he's been working with a brilliant musician and a small company of actors that are so fantastically interested in trying new things. And if that sounded a little porny, seriously, it's not. It's like - "Let's do some Shakespeare in an abandoned theater". "Sounds great!"

  5. Hey, hi, Lily Cate!

    I checked out a trailer for one of your husband's films once. Must have been on you blog. I remember loving the oddness of it. Thinking that there was some kind of writing equivalent I should explore. It was horror, right? Does he always do horror? Oh, maybe you just said he does shakespeare sometimes. That sounds like my kind of life! What about writing? Have you explored collaboration like that as a writer? I wonder does it have to happen locally?

    'Tis the time for trying new things over and over and over again.

  6. I am so much more creative when I am not creating in a vacuum. I haven't read the times article yet, but I am pretty sure that I disagree, too. :)

    I would not be anywhere close to where I am now if it weren't for you and your coworker movement. I owe you a ton! :) Plus you are just awesome to hang out with, even if I wasn't getting tons of writing done. :)

    1. I think this all began with the three of us (J too). You keep the water cooler over at your blog. Thanks for working in the cubical next to mine. It really has made this arduous adventure much more fun. Thanks! :)

  7. Let me ask you this: have you ever posted a query on a message board and opened it up for crit? I've been reading a lot of these lately, and I'm noticing a distinct tipping point in the groupthink process. Initially, the queries seem to improve by leaps and bounds, but then, in an effort to please the mass mind, the writers end up sacrificing a lot of the spark and life in their query. In order to make it palatable to the group, they have to make it bland, often plugging it into one of the many, accepted 'query formulas'. I ask because I'm going to be posting my own sometime soon, and I'm wondering how much stock I should put in that kind of feedback. Your thoughts, Ms. Lee?

  8. Hey, Ray! Thanks for asking! I think this: it's like receiving critiques. You learn from receiving them and at first they make your book a lot better, but eventually you reach some kind of skill ceiling and you keep trying to please people and make it right and you're desperate to make it right because you have been working on this thing forever but you just can't seem to do it, but you don't give up, and then this amazing thing happens where you actually reach the one million words you are supposed to write and you can totally see what is going on and where your book needs to be fixed. And so it goes with query critique until finally you write a new query that takes into account nothing that the critters said, but is perfect the first try.

    I say post it, get some perspective on your query from the flurry of opinions and then write a killer one because you are the only one that knows the beauty of your book.

    If all of that makes any sense. :)

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