Adapted from the Writing Marathon Handout and writeout.nwp.org
Natalie Goldberg conceptualized the “Writing Marathon” in Writing Down the Bones:
Everyone in the group agrees to commit himself or herself for the full time. Then we make up a schedule. For example, a ten minute writing session, another ten minute session, a fifteen minute session, two twenty minute sessions, and then we finish with a half-hour round of writing. So for the first session we all write for ten minutes and then go around the room and read what we’ve written with no comments by anyone. . . . A pause naturally happens after each reader, but we do not say ‘That was great’ or even ‘I know what you mean.’ There is no good or bad, no praise or criticism. We read what we have written and go on to the next person. People are allowed to pass and not read twice during the marathon. Naturally there should be some flexibility. If someone feels the need to pass more often or less often, that is fine. What usually happens is you stop thinking: you write; you become less and less self conscious. Everyone is in the same boat, and because no comments are made, you feel freer and freer to write anything you want. (150)
Hemingway contributed a sense of place to our “Marathon” concept in A Moveable Feast:
The story was writing itself and I was having a hard time keeping up with it. I ordered another rum St. James and I watched the girl whenever I looked up, or when I sharpened the pencil with a pencil sharpened with the shavings curling into the saucer under my drink.
I’ve seen you, beauty, and you belong to me now, whoever you are waiting for and if I never see you again, I thought. You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and pen. (6)
The “New Orleans–Style Writing Marathon”: A “New Orleans” style writing marathon combines Natalie Goldberg and Ernest Hemingway with a format developed by Richard Louth at the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project.
Every year since 1996, Writing Project teacher-writers have met in New Orleans to hold writing marathons lasting up to three days long. The basic format is always the same.
Here are similar directions for #Write Out:
- Writers begin a marathon by turning to each other and saying, “I’m a writer.”
- We will split into small groups to write and share our way across the landscape.
- We will follow Goldberg’s basic rules:
- allow about ten minutes of uninterrupted writing time.
- Share and limit responses to a simple “Thank you” after each reading.
- While there is always time for socializing, the emphasis remains on the writing, and doing it for yourself.
At the end of the Marathon we will take some time to put together some highlights that we want to share with others across the country. We will post these highlights on social media and use the hashtag #writeout.
Learn more and sign up here to receive news and updates: https://writeout.nwp.org/