Make It So: Say Hi, Shut Up, Have A Creative Jam!

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Creative people all the help they can get. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re writer or artist of some kind, if in the amateur sense, and know the challenges that face you, from publishing to editing. If you’re not a creative, you almost certainly know an artist or cosplayer or the like and their travail (which they will share gladly). Even if you, mysteriously, know no creative people, you’ve heard of the challenges they face unless you’re living under the proverbial rock (and a rock with no internet).

One of the issues that creators face is a peculiar paradox – they both need alone time to write, but often thrive in the company of their fellows. The stimulation of interacting with fellow writers or artists, for the most part, is inspiring and reinforcing. The time to actually make something is an invaluable window to create uninterrupted. This paradox seems, on the surface, to be best resolved by separating socialization and activity.

However, a local writer’s group has a different way to fulfill the need for both time and connections – and one I think we geeks should run with at cons and even other events.

You can combine both.

The Big Social Idea

So what’s this wondrous solution to the eternal battle between socializing and an author and getting down to wrangling words into writing? The idea is best summed up as getting together and then shutting up to get writing.

It works like this:

  • Writers meet at a predesignated location and socialize.  Usually for fifteen minutes.
  • At a specific time everyone shuts up and writes for one hour. Or sits there in agony and writers block. Something
  • At the end of the hour the writing phase ends and people can socialize again for an informal length of time.

How well does it work? To judge by my experience and that of others it’s awesome.  When I got to these events I get a lot out of them – both in connecting and getting writing done.

It’s really the perfect synergy of an author’s needs – contact with one’s fellows and focused time to write in a good environment. There’s an elegant simplicity to the concept that just works.

This idea isn’t even particularly unique. Code jams, art jams – we’ve seen similar activities before. This provides some structure in a bite-sized piece of time to connect and do.  It’s a great idea for any creative.

So I’ve got ideas of how we can use this idea of the social-focus jam to do more in the geek community.  Hang on, I’m about to give you some things to Make So.

Idea #1: Do your own Shut Up And Write (or Draw, or Whatever)

First of all if you like this idea, do it yourself. Gather artists, writer, game designers, whatever you are, and have a socializing/working jam.

Yes, that’s not providing a lot of guidance, so here’s two ideas:

  1. Found a meet up to do just this. Do it once a week or every two weeks to keep it regular.
  2. If you have a club or organization arrange one with the members (at least to start). Pair it with other social activities to expand the scope and go easy on people’s schedules.

For extra fun, do this at a spot that is geek/creator friendly – coffee shop, bookstore, comic shop. Your local bookstore would probably love to have ten aspiring writers meet there once a week. Your local game store probably has a game room you can get for an hour or two so you can craft the next RPG hit. Look for synergy in location (the real kind not the buzzword kind).

Idea #2: Do It At A Convention As An Event

So why not take this idea to a convention and get a room for a Shut Up And Write/Draw/Whatever event? It doesn’t have to be any thing fancy, it doesn’t have to be the largest room. You might just do it in a hotel lobby or something. But make it an official event so everyone interested comes (and boosts the idea)

The synergy you get among writers in a regular group is one thing. Now imagine what happens at a nice, active con, when twenty people sit down, socialize, then jam out. Think what unexpected results will come after they jam out and swap notes. You’re going to get some creative collective effort and relationship-building here that you can’t get anywhere else.

Encourage socializing by having contact cards people can fill out to stay in touch. Make it part of a networking event (something I run at times, so I’m biased).

How big am I on this idea? I’m going to suggest it to several cons in the area that I speak at. In fact . . .

Idea #3: Creative Spaces At Cons and Other Events

What if you take the idea of a creative jam at a con farther and have a creative/socializing room that people can drop by as they want?

Here’s my idea – have a room that is designated as a creative area for artists, writers, etc. That room would only be used for creative works, a quiet space (perhaps interrupted for occasional “social periods”) where everyone could get down to business. For the entire con (or part of the con) there’s a place to go to meet your fellows but also shut up and get to work

There’s a few ways it can run, so here’s some slightly coherent thoughts on the matter:

  • It’d be great if it was for the whole con so people can take advantage of it as they wish and so awareness of the space spreads. It might have to be limited – say a few hours a day or for one day – but I’d like to see it for the entire event.
  • To keep the balance there should be a schedule of creative time/social time. Social time should probably be only 15 minutes or so at the beginning and end of each hour. A sign on the door could indicate the schedule.
  • You could schedule different times for different kinds of creatives – art, writing, etc.  This might seem exclusionary, but also allows for focus and specific events.
  • You could “zone” the room with an art section, writing section, etc. so it’s not exclusionary.
  • Have plenty of power strips for laptops.
  • Have paper and cards for people to write on and exchange social information.
  • Have a working wireless internet connection, even if you have to set something separate up (you know how hotel wireless gets at a convention).

This idea is closer to pure theory than the others – which are based on my actual experience. But gut-wise, having a jam room at a con like this appeals to me at least, so I assume others would like it . . .

Idea #4: Wandering Jam

My final idea here is – why not combine all of these ideas!  Try this:

  • Have a creative/social shut-up-and-create croup . . .
  • That does similar events at conventions and other get-togethers . . .
  • That also runs “jam rooms.”

These ideas don’t have to be separate, they can be part of a glorious continuity of quiet time and social time. There’s fun to be had, creativity to inspire, and connections to build by making this scale.

So Get Going!

So there you go. I’m going to try and make some of this happen. What about you?

Ready to get everyone together to get social then shut up and create?


– Steven Savage