How to Use Second Life to Support Your Writing Schedule

by Joan Kremer on April 6, 2009 · 9 comments

in Adventures,Benefits of SL,Virtual tools

Every writer I know has a bag of tricks they use to motivate themselves to just sit their butt down and write on those days when it simply feels too hard — an excuse often couched in the disguise of the moment:  “I think I may be coming down with something,” or “it’s too hot/cold to write today,” or “I gotta do my laundry just in case the apocalypse arrives tonight,” or whatever excuse pops up!

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
— Thomas Mann

Well, I’ve found an awesome trick to add to my bag — thanks to Second Life!

My oldest and dearest friend in Second Life is also a writer.  We’ve collaborated on many writing-related projects in SL, including the building of Story Mountain Center for WritersBut our most recent plan is the best yet — for me, personally — because it’s added a great motivation to write every day.


Here’s how it works:

  1. My SL writing partner, Clarissa Tolsen, and I make “writing appointments” in Second Life.  Nearly every day, we log into SL at a given time (usually during her young son’s nap time) and meet at Story Mountain.
  2. We chat for a few minutes, and then we plant our avatars’ butts down at their virtual desks (as in the photo above), and our humans in front of our physical-world computers, and we write — currently each of us is working on a novel.
  3. I keep my SL viewer open on my computer screen, and maneuver my camera so I can see my avatar at all times.  I turn up the sound so that I, like my my avatar Alas Zerbino, can listen to the surf on the beach behind Story Mountain.  Then I open my word-processor on top of the SL viewer, but size it to cover only about half of the screen.  And I write.
  4. For an hour or more, we sit at our neighboring desks in the virtual world — and at our thousands-of-miles-apart offices in the physical world — and work away. 
  5. At some point (usually when it’s getting close to the end of nap time!), we leave our Second Life desks, move to a couch, and share what we’ve just written, offering each other feedback and support.
  6. Finally, we set the time for the next writing appointment.


Granted, a big part of what makes this work so well is the accountability that comes with making a commitment to a writing buddy.  Another major factor is having a regular daily writing time.  These are both excellent practices, and when I’ve used them in the past, they’ve helped me a lot.

But I’ve had writing buddies and writing appointments before, and yet I’ve never worked so productively — and with such ease — as I am now.  It’s almost magical at times!

Why?  My guess is it has something to do with how our brains can’t distinguish between “real” and “virtual” visual input.  Visualizations, whether only in our minds or on a computer screen as well, are as real to the brain as the physical event or process, researchers are discovering. 

I certainly don’t know the science behind this (though I can recommend an excellent book that sheds some light on the brain’s functioning: My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey).  It may be that my brain is sending “look how productive she is” signals to my nerves, which then just keep my physical world fingers moving on my keyboard!  Or perhaps it’s just guilt — watching my very productive avatar writing away in Second Life shames me into trying to keep up with her on this side of the monitor.


I do know that having a beautiful office with a view like I have at Story Mountain (see photo above) sure doesn’t hurt!

No matter what’s behind it — science, psychology, even magic! — I don’t care.  Because it works!  And I’ve had one of the best daily writing streaks in a long time as a result!

Have you had similar experiences in Second Life?  Are there ways SL helps you in your writing practice?  Share them in the comments, if you would — we’d all like to hear about them!

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