Born in the same year- 1999- National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and coworking have, at first glance, nothing much more than that in common. A deeper look, however, shows a common origin: both were born out of the recognition that people are designed to work in communities. Cut off from others, most of us flounder, while often the mere presence of others, even without any active attempt at cooperation, can make the same activities easier- even fun.
Twenty-five years later I was living in a whole different world. I had moved back to the US after nine years abroad- but, via the internet, I was still in touch with friends not only in the Czech Republic, but across the US, Europe and Asia as well. And I had made new friends locally, too. When I heard about NaNoWriMo in 2005 I thought maybe it was time to dust off my writing dreams and an old plot that had been lying around all these years and give it a whirl. So every day for the month of November, I sat down dutifully and churned out my 1667 words- on my way to writing the 50,000 words that mark the lower bound for a work to be called a novel. Only this time, instead of one or two people offering encouragement- and more who were tired of hearing me talk about it- I had an army of thousands of people around the world, all aiming for the same goal, egging each other on with ‘word sprints’ and challenges, complaining to one another, or offering advice. It still wasn’t easy, but it was satisfyingly hard, like running a marathon for which you’ve been training for for months, not painful. And the story I was writing opened up into something new and unexpected. Five years later, back in the Czech Republic, I used NaNoWriMo again to write a ‘prequel’- only to decide that what I had was actually a series of at least five novels.
NaNoWriMo turned out to be just what I needed for writing- but there was still the problem of revising. Once again I was stuck in isolation, trying to put and keep myself on some kind of schedule and finding it hard going. And that’s where coworking came in. I started coming occasionally to Locus for various events: movie night, lectures, poker… It hadn’t even occurred to me to become a member- until the Friday Critique-Free Writers’ Meetups got started. Usually there were at least three or four of us in both the morning and afternoon sessions. After saying what we hoped to accomplish we got down to writing. The sound of everyone else clicking away was enough to keep me on track. I found I was getting more done in a single day at Locus than the rest of the week put together. It wasn’t too long after that that I decided to become a member. I bought a ‘virtual membership’ – one day a month- and paid for extra days so that, with the Friday Writers’ Meetup, I was coming two days a week. About six months later I began helping with the management in exchange for a full time membership.
The presence of other people working is always a stimulus to getting things done- still, I find what helps the most is being in a group, all there for the same purpose and with a clear goal for the day’s work. So this year for NaNoWriMo we threw open the doors of Locus every Saturday for the month of November to anyone and everyone in the Czech Republic doing NaNoWriMo. Some people came from other cities, most were already living in Prague. Some came every time and some came only once. A total of around fifteen people came to at least one meeting- and three of our members that I know of – perhaps more- ‘won’ NaNoWriMo in 2013 by writing at least 50,000 words on their novel. And yes, I was one of them, writing the third of my historical series- set, fittingly enough, in 18th century Bohemia.