How to Use Second Life to Support Your Writing Schedule

by Joan Kremer on April 6, 2009 · 10 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, phimosis ” or “it’s too hot/cold to write today, rheumatologist ” 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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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Debbie (8 comments.) April 10, 2009 at 7:10 am

I love your idea but have a question: How do you handle incoming IMs and visitors to Story Mountain who want to talk to you while you’re writing? Do you use Busy mode?

Debbies last blog post..Happy Poetry Month!

2 Joan Kremer (71 comments.) April 10, 2009 at 9:34 am

Hi Debbie!

That’s a great question. So far, that hasn’t been a problem. We usually do get visitors at Story Mountain, but we don’t go out to greet them when we’re writing. We also work in our offices on the top floor in the back, and even though anyone can see me there, my excellent typing pose gives the impression that I’m quite busy and focused.

As for IMs, if they’re from friends, I tell them I’m writing at the moment and can’t talk. If they’re from people I don’t know, I respond that I’ll get back to them as soon as I can (unless it’s a quickly answered question). If IMs ever become a problem, I’ll definitely use “Busy” mode.

For visitors, I also have a couple of backup plans that I haven’t had to use yet:
1) I have a sign/bulletin board that I can put outside my office door explaining that I’m unavailable at the moment, and invite them to leave a message on the BB.
2) We can rez a skybox and go way up in the sky — taking our offices, ocean surf sounds, and whatever else we want, with us.

I hope those ideas are helpful! And let me know if you find other things that work!


3 Debbie (8 comments.) April 11, 2009 at 8:45 am

Great ideas, Joan. Right now, my main challenge is IMs from friends I’ve made on SL. Even taking the time to reply that I can’t talk is an interruption to the flow of writing, I find, so I’ve stopped doing my virtual writing on SL (I’ve always been reluctant to use “Busy” mode, though perhaps I shouldn’t be so hesitant).

Another idea I’ve toyed with: creating a second avatar to use for when I’d rather be online incognito. 🙂

Thanks again,

4 Joan Kremer (71 comments.) April 11, 2009 at 10:18 am

Another avatar is a great idea, Debbie. I do use that option occasionally when I can’t deal with interruptions. Many people I know have an “alt” they use when they have a lot to do in SL and can’t afford to be interrupted.

I had to laugh at your comment about IMs from friends — that’s one of the consequences of being the delightful, friendly person you are!! Heehee!

Joan 😀

5 Joann (1 comments.) January 10, 2010 at 12:08 pm

What a unique way to allow one’s self to concentrate and then get feedback! I had never heard of SL before. I’ll definitely come back and investigate this some more! Thanks for the good information.

6 Celeste Stewart (1 comments.) February 1, 2010 at 5:21 pm

I signed up for Second Life about a month ago and love this idea! I still need to learn how to use Second Life, but once I do, I’m settin’ up a writing shop – hopefully by the sea! Thanks for a cool idea.
Celeste Stewart´s last blog ..Quick Poll: How many words do you write per week? My ComLuv Profile

7 Joan Kremer (71 comments.) March 8, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Thanks for the comment, Celeste! I hope you find as much support for writing as I have in Second Life. I’d love to hear how it goes for you.

8 Iloraz Inteligencji (1 comments.) March 23, 2010 at 10:43 am

Second Life is a great game. I remember when I first played it 2 years ago. And I was using this game on linux operating system. I was amazed by the huge world in this game. But there is even a possibility to earn money in this game. This game gives us very big capabilities. It’s really inspirating ‘second life’ and It is not hard to imagine that it helps in supporting writing schedule

9 Markus Elias (1 comments.) June 29, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Science and advancement seem to never stop. Peace!

10 Ricky(new comment) October 19, 2016 at 9:09 am

I don’t have much experience with SL, not sure if Sim City counts! 🙂 Pretty interesting perspectives here. I say keep writing, no matter the medium, or purpose, it’s all practice.

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