Parallel Writing


Guest Post by Sylvia May 

Much has been written about the difficulty writers have staying disciplined with their craft. Distractions abound, and of course the clichéd writer’s block often prevents us from sticking to task and achieving our goals. I frequently wonder why it is that we procrastinate so much when it comes to doing something we love. 

I still have not found the definitive answer to that question. Nor have I discovered the comprehensive solution to my own dilly-dallying. We all know the story: I sit down to write, intending to fulfill my five-page goal for the day. But first I must answer emails. And then change the laundry load. Now I need to make a cup of coffee. Then I Google something and spend an hour or two on the Internet. The phone rings and thirty minutes later I finally hang up. Before I know it, it is time to make supper and I’ve written barely a page. 

Recently, however, I have become quite productive. What changed, you might ask.  Several months ago, I met a fellow author with whom I’ve become good friends. We live in Bermuda, a small island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with an equally small population, so the number of published authors who reside here is limited. To say we were delighted to have found each other would be an understatement. 

We of course discussed our books, our approach to writing, and — no surprise — our comparable difficulties with staying disciplined. Especially living on an island with azure waters, pink sandy beaches, and warm sunshine. 

“I sometimes go to the college library to write,” Debbie told me. “I find I’m more productive when I work alongside other people who are working. We don’t interact. I’m like a toddler who participates in parallel play. I parallel write.” Still, the library wasn’t ideal, she continued, because during busy times it was difficult to find a workspace. 

A light bulb went on in my head. Although I had been thinking of asking her about being a critique partner, something else came to mind. What if she and I were to “parallel write” together sometime? Her face lit up at my suggestion and we decided to give it a try. 

Since then, we have been getting together regularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We alternate going to one another’s homes, and after our initial “how are things” chat, we sit across from each other at the table and write for several hours. It is inspiring to have someone nearby who toils at the same task, and who understands what it takes to turn words into a story. Every so often, one of us might blurt out, “What’s a good way to say…” or the other might get up and to make a pot of tea, but mostly we don’t interact; we just write. We work consistently the whole time we’re together. Neither of us is conscious of what the other is writing because we are immersed in our own stories.  As a result, our output has increased significantly. 

We derive additional benefits. We help each other set realistic goals for our work. We encourage each other back on the writing track when life has pushed us off. We support one another as needed in this “new” publishing world. 

I suppose the success of these parallel writing sessions has to do with the idea of accountability, of having someone looking over our shoulders so to speak. But I believe it is more than that. The two of us have become a part of something together, and our solitary profession is no longer so lonely. We have become coworkers. 

Parallel writing. It is a simple concept that is effective. Who would have thought that working across the table from a like-minded individual was all it would take for me to get on with my writing?

Sylvia May was born in The Netherlands and has lived in Canada, the US, and currently resides in Bermuda. Her relocation to the U.S. a few years ago inspired her to pen her award-winning first novel, The Unraveling of Abby Settel. She is currently working on her second Women’s Fiction novel. When she is not writing, she scuba dives, plays golf, paints, and rides her scooter around the island. Sylvia also writes mysteries with a coauthor, under the name Lucy Arlington. To find out more, visit her website at


Posted on June 27, 2012, in Publicity & Writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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